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Port Houston

Nation’s Ports are Stacked with Vessels Waiting to Unload

The nation’s ports are bursting at the seams, causing shipping delays around the country. And Port Houston is not immune to these delays.

One factor is that Trans-Atlantic cargo has grown substantially with the Panama Canal’s expansion to accommodate larger ships. In addition, time in queues for container vessels on average increased by nearly an hour just from 2018 to 2019 at the 25 busiest U.S. container ports, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This helps explain the literal sea of vessels packed bumper-to-bumper, often for days at a time, in the San Francisco Bay, Seattle’s Elliott Bay, Port of Los Angeles and other ports near large cities.

Roger Guenther, the Port of Houston executive director, points to more people clicking the buy button since the pandemic began. And the supply chain is overburdened because of it.

Goods are coming off the ship faster than ships are leaving the terminal, he explained.

All of these factors are leading to competition between ports to modernize, using technology to decrease wait times, enhancing loading speeds and increasing cargo throughput.

Houston’s port, one of the nation’s busiest, is widening its channel from 530 to 700 feet to accommodate larger ships beginning this year. Loading docks have been expanded to increase container room, while new cranes of more than 300 feet can grab cargo from the top of vessels.

Moreover, last year, the Port of Houston acquired a program called SmartMap, which creates automated functions for routing containers, and another called SmartStack, which can update inventories more rapidly.

Down the road, these methods may just pay off and clear port congestion … until another big wave comes along.


Inside The Story

Roger Guenther

About Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown has decades of experience in corporate communications and marketing management with organizations including Coldwell Banker Residential, Grubb & Ellis, Marcus & Millichap, NAIOP, SIOR and ALM. In those positions, she worked in conjunction with chief executive officers and chief marketing officers to create corporate messaging, cohesive branding standards, strategic marketing plans and thought pieces. Brown is a frequent speaker at industry events and an editing adjunct professor for an online course. She has a master’s degree in mass communications from San Jose State University.

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  • ◦Economy