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Army Corps of Engineers Clears Bayport Channel for Dredging

HOUSTON, Sept. 24, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- While reporting continued brisk business through Port of Houston Authority facilities, Executive Director Roger Guenther announced Tuesday that dredging of the Bayport channel has gotten the green light.

During the regular monthly meeting of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority, Guenther noted that PHA operating revenues in August 2014 have again exceeded $24 million, due to the robust cargo growth.

With post-Panamax ships already calling Houston, Guenther commended the Houston Pilots. The Pilots have worked with container carriers and the Port Authority to prepare for the larger generation of vessels (9,000-plus TEU in capacity) that need to call Bayport and Barbours Cut very soon, he said.

Guenther noted new dredging requests that have recently developed to safely accommodate these vessels.

"I am very pleased to announce that Bayport was just cleared for dredging by the Corps this week," Guenther said. "This has been a tremendous effort by all parties involved to make sure we are ready to handle the larger ships needing to call our facilities."

Dredging already is under way at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal and when completed later this year, work will begin at Bayport. The estimated $80 million project will deepen the channels from 40 feet to 45 feet to match the depth of the Houston Ship Channel.

Also Tuesday, PHA signed a Memorandum of Friendship and Trade Cooperation with the Port of Rijeka, the largest port in Croatia. Vlado Mezak, Executive Director of the Port of Rijeka Authority, was accompanied by a delegation from Croatia Mezak and Janiece Longoria, Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority Commission, signed the document.

"It is the intent to look for future opportunities to promote waterborne trade and economic development between the city of Houston and the country of Croatia via the Port of Rijeka," the chairman said during the event.

A proclamation signed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker was read during the ceremony by Philip Berquiest, Honorary Consul, Republic of Croatia.

In Guenther's monthly financial report to the Port Commission, he said August activity contributed to the year's already solid results. Year to date, more than 25 million tons of cargo have moved across Port Authority docks, with steel and bulk cargo driving a 5 percent growth in tonnage. Guenther said it has been an exceptional year for steel, which is up 39 percent year to date, at 4.3 million tons. He noted that PHA recently hosted the biannual Steel Roundtable.

Guenther said PHA's performance in steel preserves its status as the leading breakbulk port in the United States, which makes it "fitting that we prepare to host the annual Breakbulk Americas conference in Houston next week for the third time," he said.

Breakbulk Americas conference officials asked PHA to host its 2015 event, as well as for the years 2017 and 2018. The new event rotation consists of two successive years in Houston, followed by one year in a rotating port city. The Breakbulk conference is the largest gathering of breakbulk executives in the U.S. Its economic impact on Houston is $4 million and growing, Trade Development Managing Director Ricky Kunz said.

Chairman Janiece Longoria noted September has been an event-filled month. "The Centennial Family Festival on Sept. 6, hosted by Promote Houston Ship Channel 2014 Inc. in recognition of the Houston Ship Channel's centennial celebration, was a fun-filled family day with about 2,000 people attending. The Port Authority and partners hosted the fourth annual Maritime and Logistics Youth Expo earlier that day. Hundreds of local high school students from six independent school districts participated. PHA also partnered with Hermann Park for the Park to Port Bike Ride to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Park and the Houston Ship Channel.

PHA, along with its partners, helped connect about 400 military veterans, both men and women, with more than 50 companies in the maritime field through the "Military to Maritime" Career Fair. It was sponsored by the American Maritime Partnership.

Longoria was among industry leaders to address the 5th Annual Petrochemical & Maritime Outlook Conference, hosted by the Economic Alliance Port Region. Longoria also served as the keynote speaker for the Greater Houston Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance Conference.

Also, in the meeting, Longoria highlighted a successful pilot program to import shipments of navel oranges from South Africa across Port Authority docks, which will be expanded next year. The "South African Summer Citrus" program, sponsored by the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum was recently expanded to include the Port of Houston.

More commemorative projects and events are planned for the fall, including a rededication ceremony of the Houston Ship Channel on November 10, 2014, and a documentary produced by Texas Foundation for the Arts that will air on Houston Public Broadcasting Channel 8 that evening at 9 p.m. Other events include the exhibition "Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel," presented by the Houston Arts Alliance in partnership with the Houston Public Library at the Julia Ideson Library, which will run through January 2015; and a Centennial Commemorative Book.

The next Port Commission meeting will be held Tuesday, October 28.

About the Port of Houston Authority

For nearly 100 years, the Port of Houston Authority has owned or operated the public cargo-handling facilities of the Port of Houston – the nation's largest port for foreign waterborne tonnage. The port is an economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas and the nation. It supports the creation of more than one million statewide jobs and more than 2.1 million nationwide jobs, and the generation of economic activity totaling more than $178.5 billion in Texas and $499 billion across the nation. For more information, visit the Port Authority website at: www.portofhouston.com.

The Port of Houston Authority logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=719

CONTACT: Bill Hensel, Manager, Corporate Communications Office: (713) 670-2893 Cell: (832) 452-5776 E-mail: bhensel@poha.com

Source:Port of Houston Authority