Port Houston Commission Rick Campo delivers the annual State of the Port address September 6. (Photo courtesy of Port Houston)
Ports & Terminals

Campo Declares ‘State Of Port Houston Is Awesome’

Port Houston Commission Chairman Ric Campo took to the stage September 6 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Houston to deliver the annual State of the Port address. Speaking to members of the Greater Houston Partnership and guests in the audience, Campo stated the “State of Port Houston is awesome, and its future is in good hands.”

Campo pointed to the port’s steady cargo statistics, particularly Houston’s container volumes in fiscal year 2023. Just two months ago, the Port of Houston set a July record with 344,163 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) handled. That represented a 5 percent increase over July 2022. The 2.2 million TEUs as of August are only 1 percent below last year’s record pace, according to Port Houston.

“In 2022, Port Houston handled 33.5 million metric tons of containerized cargo and traded with over 220 countries, a testament to the role we play in connecting global trade and offers significant financial impact across our 12-county region and the state of Texas,” said Katie Pryor, the Greater Houston Partnership’s chief development officer and senior vice president of member engagement.

According to a study by Martin Associates that looked at the port’s economic impact in 2022, Port Houston last year supported a total of 1.54 million jobs and generated a total economic value of $439.2 billion. According to the Martin group, that amounts to 18.6 percent of the state of Texas’ gross domestic product.

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Enhancing that impact is Project 11, the name of the $1 billion project by the Galveston Engineer District to expand the 52-mile Houston Ship Channel to reduce congestion, enhance safety and keep the waterway competitive. Segment 1A, the first segment of the expansion project, was completed earlier this year. Stretching more than 11 miles from Bolivar Roads to Redfish, Segment 1A widened the channel in that area to 700 feet. One main goal of Project 11 is to allow two-way ship traffic within the channel. Project 11 is on track for completion in 2025, but still requires further federal funding.

“Project 11 is a classic example of a Texas can-do [attitude] and how we partner with everyone in this room to get things done,” Campo said during his address.

Campo went on to touch on the port’s sustainability and environmental stewardship initiatives, which include a goal to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2050 and working with dredging contractors to use Tier 4 engines and employ sound mitigation near populated areas. A year ago, the port signed a memorandum of understanding with Shell to explore ways the two groups can partner to deploy new technology and infrastructure at terminals within the port’s area of responsibility to reduce emissions.

Campo also highlighted the port’s land-side investments, including building out the port’s container-handling capabilities with the Wharf 6 expansion and the recently announced plan to relocate Port Houston’s headquarters to the city’s Fifth Ward. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was in Houston in June for the ribbon-cutting for Wharf 6, which is expected to be fully operational in October.

During his report, Campo welcomed a trio of Port Houston employees and “future leaders” to the stage. The team included Maria Aguirre, director of community relations for the port; Candice Armenoff, execution planning manager; and Houston Ship Channel Operations Manager for Channel Improvement Leia Wilson. Campo described the careers of all three as having “long runways” ahead of them.

Aguirre, speaking during the panel discussion, emphasized the port’s community connections.

“We are yours,” she said. “We want you to be proud of your port. There’s really a bright future, and I’m really excited to be at the port and to be a part of it.”