Once lined by clay bluffs and plagued with fallen trees, when Buffalo Bayou was dredged out in the early 1900s to officially form the Houston Ship Channel, it was a key moment in this city’s fortunes, granting Houstonians access to Galveston Bay. Today the banks are lined with docks for various commodities, from bulk oil to cars from overseas to containers.
Despite its humble origins, the Houston Ship Channel was the lifeblood that gave justification to building the city of Houston, the decision that turned this small backwater town into an industrial hub almost overnight. From there the Port of Houston took off, expanding out and out, and increasing Houston’s fortunes with it.
Over 100 years later, the Port of Houston is a sprawling 50-mile-long complex that ranks as the top U.S. port by volume moved each annually. Millions of tons of goods are transported in and out of the port each year, items that we use in our daily lives. With this great feat comes an extensive web of human beings from all walks of life and all corners of the globe working around the clock to keep the flow of commerce going in this magnificent, complex system of enormous ships, people, docks, and waterways. What follows is a glimpse of this world that exists, unobserved, so close to our own: The Port of Houston.
ABOVE: The M/V Bulk Costa Rica approaches Fred Hartman bridge in Baytown. With a load of dry cement from Turkey, she will be in port for a few weeks to discharge this cargo, one of the slowest maritime industry operations. The evolution of bulk cargo to containerization took most port calls from weeks to a matter of hours, but not all commodities fit standard containers. Ships of all types and sizes from all over the globe call the Port of Houston for her incredible diversity.