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February 17 2020

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16 The Journal of Commerce | Februar y 17 2020 Gulf Trade: 2020 Market Outlook Special Report PORT HOUSTON IS working to accel- erate the widening of its ship chan- nel after reporting its third straight year of double-digit percentage vol- ume growth, driven primarily by a 51 percent jump in resin exports. In a January interview, Roger Guenther, executive director of the Port of Houston Authority, said completing the $1 billion widening project is critical to the port's future, enabling it to simul- taneously handle two 14,000-TEU vessels, the largest that can pass through the Panama Canal. But in order to complete the project in four to five years instead of the decade it would typically take, the port is executing the government approval process, design work, and financing simultaneously, rather than sequen- tially, he said. "Our number one priority is the expansion of the Houston ship chan- nel, to make it wider and deeper," said Guenther, a day after he laid out the 2020 plan for the port to authority board members in Hous- ton. The urgency, he said, stems from a need to ensure that ship size is not limited and the "frequency of vessels isn't disrupted, so that we can keep commerce flowing through our channel, so that we can continue to grow." That effort in 2020 will focus on marshaling stakeholder support and lobbying elected officials to get the project federal authoriza- tion through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and making sure the bill passes before the current legislative session ends in December. Broad support As the local sponsor of the proj- ect, Port Houston will have to fund about 35 percent of the budget, Guenther said. In a sign of the port's commitment and its desire to expe- dite the channel widening project, the authority board in November awarded design contracts totaling $28 million that will be executed if the project receives federal authori- zation, he said. Private sector bene- ficiaries of the widening project that use the channel, mainly terminal operators and plant owners from the energy sector, have committed to contributing 50 percent of the cost, he said. +2.3% +11.3% +10.5% +11.4% 1,000,000 1,200,000 1,400,000 1,600,000 1,800,000 2,000,000 2,200,000 2,400,000 Jan.- Nov.2015 Jan.- Nov.2016 Jan.- Nov.2017 Jan.- Nov.2018 Jan.- Nov.2019 TEU Port Houston cargo growth accelerates in 2019 Source: IHS Markit © 2020 IHS Markit Loaded TEU import and export volumes for Port Houston, with year-over-year change Wide berth Growth spurs Houston port to fast-track channel widening By Hugh R. Morley

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