Three new Super Post-Panamax cranes for Port Houston’s Barbours Cut Container Terminal have departed Shanghai aboard the heavy lift ship Zhen Hua 13. The port's commission approved the $33 million purchase in 2015, and the shipment is expected to arrive in early October.
These 400-foot-tall cranes are slated to replace three older units at Barbours Cut. They are a part of a $700 million modernization program to increase the terminal's cargo-handling efficiency and capacity. The new cranes, along with wharf reconfiguration projects and other measures, are expected to increase terminal capacity from 1.2 million to 2 million TEU.
The port anticipates that the U.S. Gulf region will see steady growth in coming years due to increased production and export of plastic resins, which should follow several plant expansions along the Houston Ship Channel. All told, about half a dozen new polyethylene plants are expected to start operation in Texas by 2019, adding millions of tons of polyethylene pellets to Port Houston's chart-topping liquid petchem exports. ExxonMobil alone predicts that it will expand its export volume from 50 containers a day to 300 containers a day of raw polyethylene plastic. Exxon’s recently completed plant expansion project in Mont Belvieu will add roughly of 1.3 million tonnes of plastic production per year. The new volume is driven by an abundant supply of ethane, the raw material for ethylene and polyethylene production.
Barbours Cut was the first container terminal to serve the U.S. Gulf Coast, and it celebrates its 40th year of operation this year. Port Houston also owns and operates the Bayport Container Terminal. Both facilities can serve 45-foot draft vessels, and together they are responsible for nearly 70 percent of all of the container cargo business along the Gulf Coast, including 95 percent of the container activity in Texas.