The Port of Houston is expanding to maintain the capacity to accommodate overflow from other ports seen during the pandemic, according to Maria Aguirre, director of community relations and events for the Port of Houston. Aguirre gave a presentation on the state of the port at the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon March 22. Below are three highlights from her presentation.

1. Pandemic effects

Aguirre said the port did not see a drastic change in wait times during the pandemic as other ports did, leading some cargo containers to turn to the Port of Houston with their goods. Expansion plans underway will keep the port prepared for any unexpected influxes of overflow from other ports, which was seen during the pandemic, she said.

2. Expansion plans

The Houston Ship Channel has over 200 facilities and is the nation's largest port for waterborne tonnage, petrochemical and steel, among other areas, according to Aguirre.

A recent initiative called Project 11 sets out to widen the channel from 530 feet to 700 feet, allowing ships to navigate the channel safely and efficiently. One of the first steps was completed in 2021 with the awarding of the first major dredge contract, and improvements are expected to be completed by 2025.

The port is also looking to grow by investing $1.1 billion into additional yard space and equipment, 12 ship-to-shore cranes, 19 rubber tire gantry cranes, two additional container yards, an additional wharf at the Turning Basin facility and the redevelopment of general cargo and breakbulk docks.

3. Top importers and exporters

Houston's top 10 importers in 2021 were Walmart, Anheuser Busch, IKEA, Steve Silver, Heineken, LG Electronics, Tramontina USA, Rooms To Go, Crown Cork & Seal, and Red Bull. Alongside these, Aguirre said a large number of vehicle imports from Maserati, Volkswagen and other automotive brands, as well as construction supplies such as plywood were in high demand during the pandemic.

On the other side, ExxonMobil, Vinmar Internation, Dow Chemical, Muehistein International, Allenberg Cotton, Montachem International, Olam Cotton, Shintoch Inc., World Food Programme and Tesla were all top exporters for the Port of Houston in 2021.