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EAST HOUSTON GROWTH: Houston readies for opening of Panama Canal expansion



Sundance Cove is in a position to capture demand for communities in northeast Houston as the region continues to grow, both in terms of employment and population/households.

Houston Business Journal recently reported: 

It’s been six years since the Panamanian government authorized its $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project. With the opening of the new expansion slated for May, Houston has already begun to feel the impact.

The expansion — which includes wideningand deepening the navigation channels along the waterway, installing locks to accommodate larger ships and create a third lane of traffic, as well as making improvements to further modernize the navigation channels — will double the canal’s capacity, allowing the Port of Houston to import and export more containerized cargo from Asia.

This is a boon for the Houston shipping industry, which historically has been somewhat limited due to canal size. With the expansion, vessels as large as 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, or the dimensions of a standard 20-foot shipping container, will be allowed passage through the canal. Previously, vessels were capped at 5,000 TEUs.

“The expansion of the Panama Canal is going to create tremendous opportunities for Houston in the future,” said Roger Guenther, executive director of the Port of Houston Authority. “With the opportunities of larger ships, which creates the opportunity for a less expensive unit rate on a container... it’s going to be a lot more efficient and cost advantageous to East Gulf and East Coast ports.”

The reopening of the Panama Canal and increased growth in the petrochemical industry will put more product on Port of Houston-region roads domestically. As a result, there have been efforts among stakeholders in the region to identify road service products to help move freight more efficiently, said Chad Burke, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region, one of several economic development organizations that the Port of Houston has contracted.

It’s critical for the future viability of this region to have enough capacity to move not only products but people through this region efficiently, and we’re already really behind the curve on that because industry moves a lot faster than infrastructure,” said Burke. “Industry can ramp up and build new facilities within a year or two — five years at the most — and it takes at least double that to identify, engineer, fund and build a project to handle that type of capacity.”