Port of Houston

Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of 579 square miles (1,500 km2). Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown, which is the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. of nearly 6 million people. 

Houston was founded on August 30, 1836 by brothers Augustus ChapmaN Allen and John Kirby Allen on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou. The city was incorporated on June 5, 1837, and named after then-President of the Republic of Texas—former General Sam Houston—who had commanded at the Battle of San Jacinto, which took place 25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located. 

Rated as a global city, Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation. Houston is also leading in health care sectors and building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to moreFortune 500 headquarters in the city limits. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Houston Museum District. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 601.7 square miles (1,558 km2); this comprises 579.4 square miles (1,501 km2) of land and 22.3 square miles (58 km2) of water.[35] Most of Houston is located on the gulf coastal plain, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland and forest. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie, which are all still visible in surrounding areas. Flatness of the local terrain, when combined withurban sprawl, has made flooding a recurring problem for the city.[36] Downtown stands about 50 feet (15 m) above sea level,[37] and the highest point in far northwest Houston is about 125 feet (38 m) in elevation.[38][39] The city once relied on groundwaterfor its needs, but land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston and Lake Conroe. 

Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. Buffalo Bayou runs through downtown and the Houston Ship Channel, and has three tributaries: White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Heights neighborhood north of downtown and then towards downtown; Braes Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel continues past Galveston and then into the Gulf of Mexico.

Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from river deposits formed from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic matter, that over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath the layers of sediment is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into salt dome formations, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. The thick, rich, sometimes black, surface soil is suitable for rice farming in suburban outskirts where the city continues to grow. 

The city of Houston has a strong mayoral form of municipal government.[64] Houston is a home rule city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan.[64][65] The City's elected officials are the mayor, city controller and 14 members of the city council.[66] The mayor of Houston is Annise Parker—a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan ballot who is serving her first term as of January 2010.[67] Houston's mayor serves as the city's chief administrator, executive officer, and official representative, and is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced.[67] As the result of a 1991 referendum in Houston, a mayor is elected for a two-year term, and can be elected to as many as three consecutive terms. The term limits were spearheaded by conservative political activist Clymer Wright.[68]

The city council line-up of nine district based and five at-large positions was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979.[69] At-large council members represent the entire city.[66] Under the current city charter, if the population in the city limits goes past 2.1 million residents, the current nine-member city council districts will be expanded with the addition of two city council districts.[70]

The city controller is elected independently of the mayor and council. The controller's duties are to certify available funds prior to committing such funds and processing disbursements. The city's fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. Ronald Green is the city controller, serving his first term as of January 2010.

Houston is considered to be a politically divided city whose balance of power often sways between Republicans and Democrats. Much of the city's wealthier areas vote Republican, while the city's middle class, working class, and minority areas vote Democratic. According to the 2005 Houston Area Survey, 68 percent of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County are declared or favor Republicans while 89 percent of non-Hispanic blacks in the area are declared or favor Democrats. About 62 percent Hispanics (of any race) in the area are declared or favor Democrats.[71] The city has often been known to be the most politically diverse city in Texas, a state known for being generally conservative.[71] As a result the city is often a contested area in statewide elections.[71]


Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also growing economic bases in Houston.[73][74] The ship channel is also a large part of Houston's economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network and by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.[10]

Considered to be the energy capital of the world, five of the six supermajor energy companies maintain a large base of operations in Houston (international headquarters of ConocoPhillips; US operational headquarters of Exxon-Mobil; US headquarters for international companies Shell Oil (US subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell located in London and The Hague, Netherlands), and BP whose international headquarters are in London, England).[75] The headquarters of Shell Oil Company, the US affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell, is located at One Shell Plaza. While ExxonMobil maintains its global headquarters in Irving, Texas, its upstream and chemical divisions as well as most operational divisions, are located in Houston. Chevron has offices in Houston in a 40-story building originally intended to be the headquarters of Enron.[76] The company's Chevron Pipe Line Company subsidiary is headquartered in Houston, and more divisions are being consolidated and moved to Houston each year.[77] Houston is headquarters for the Marathon Oil CorporationSchlumberger,HalliburtonApache Corporation, and Citgo and alternative energy companies such as Horizon Wind Energy.[78]

The Houston area is a leading center for building oilfield equipment.[79] Much of Houston's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy man-made ship channel, the Port of Houston.[80] The port ranks first in the United States in international commerce, and is the tenth-largest port in the world.[11][81] Unlike most places, high oil and gasoline prices are beneficial for Houston's economy as many of its residents are employed in the energy industry.[82]

The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown MSA's gross area product (GAP) in 2008 was $440.4 billion,[83] slightly larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Belgium, Malaysia, Venezuela or Sweden. Only 21 countries other than the United States have agross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product.[83] Houston's MSA gross area product for 2007 is estimated to be 416.6 billion, up 13.8 percent from 2006. Mining, which in Houston consists almost entirely of exploration and production of oil and gas, accounts for 26.3% of Houston's GAP, up sharply in response to high energy prices and a decreased worldwide surplus of oil production capacity; followed by engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.[84]

The Houston area added 42,400 private-sector jobs between November 2007 and November 2008 and registered the nation’s largest gain in private sector employment among the nation's cities, according to employment statistics of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.[86] The unemployment rate in the city was 3.8% in April 2008, the lowest level in eight years while the job growth rate was 2.8%.[87]

The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated.[88][89] This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5 percent of graduates are still living and working in the region.[89]

In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the Category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine.[90] Foreign governments have established 89 consular offices in metropolitan Houston. Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here and 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations.[91] Twenty-five foreign banks representing 13 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.[92]

In 2008, Houston received top ranking on Kiplinger's Personal Finance Best Cities of 2008 list which ranks cities on their local economy, employment opportunities, reasonable living costs and quality of life.[93]The city ranked fourth for highest increase in the local technological innovation over the preceding 15 years, according to Forbes magazine.[94] In the same year, the city ranked second on the annual Fortune 500 list of company headquarters,[95] ranked first for Forbes Best Cities for College Graduates,[96] and ranked first on Forbes list of Best Cities to Buy a Home.[97] In 2010, the city was rated the best city for shopping, according to Forbes.[98]

Houston is a multicultural city, in part because of its many academic institutions and strong industries as well as being a major port city. Over ninety languages are spoken in the city.[99] Houston has among the youngest populations in the nation,[100][101][102] partly due to an influx of immigrants into Texas.[103] The city has the third-largest Hispanic and third-largest Mexican population in the United States. It also has more Hispanics than any other city in Texas.[104] An estimated 400,000illegal aliens reside in the Greater Houston area.[105] Houston has some of the largest Indian and Pakistani communities in the United States.[106] The Nigerian community of Houston, estimated to be over 2.0% of the city's population, is the largest in the United States.[107][108]

According to the 2010 CensusWhites made up 50.5% of Houston's population, of which 25.6% were non-Hispanic whitesBlacks or African Americans made up 23.7% of Houston's population. American Indians made up 0.7% of Houston's population. Asians made up 6.0% of Houston's population while Pacific Islanders made up 0.1%. Individuals from some other race made up 15.2% of the city's population, of which 0.2% were non-Hispanic. Individuals from two or more races made up 3.3% of the city's population. People of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 43.8% of Houston's population.[109]

As of the 2000 Census, there were 1,953,631 people and the population density was 3,371.7 people per square mile (1,301.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.3% White, 25.3% African American, 5.3% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 16.5% from some other race, and 3.1% from two or more races. In addition, Hispanics and Latinos made up 37.4% of Houston's population while non-Hispanic whites made up 30.8%.[110]

There were 717,945 households out of which 33.1 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2 percent were married couples living together, 15.3 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3 percent were non-families. Twenty-nine percent of all households were made up of individuals and 6.2 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.39. The median house price was $115,961 in 2009.[111]

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.5 percent under the age of 18, 11.2 percent from 18 to 24, 33.8 percent from 25 to 44, 19.1 percent from 45 to 64, and 8.4 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,616, and the median income for a family was $40,443. Males had a median income of $32,084 versus $27,371 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,101. Nineteen percent of the population and 16 percent of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 26.1 percent of those under the age of 18 and 14.3 percent of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Houston has a large number of immigrants from Asia, including the largest Vietnamese American population in Texas and third-largest in the United States, with 30,000 people in 2007. Some parts of the city with high populations of Vietnamese and Chineseresidents have Chinese and Vietnamese street signs, in addition to English ones. Houston has two Chinatowns: the original located in East Downtown, and the more recent one is in the southwest area of the city.[112] The city has a Little Saigon in Midtown and Vietnamese businesses located in the southwest area of Houston's Chinatown.[113] The Mahatma Gandhi District—a "Little India" community—exists along Hillcroft Avenue.[114][115]

Houston has a large gay community concentrated primarily in and around Neartown and Houston Heights. It is estimated that the Houston metropolitan area has the twelfth-largest number of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals in the United States.[116] With the election of Annise Parker in 2009, Houston became the largest city in the United States to have an openly gay mayor.[117]


The White Oak Bayou watershed is located in central Harris County. The bayou originates northwest of FM 1960 and flows generally toward the southeast. The bayou drains areas in northwest portions of the county as well as the City of Jersey Village and portions of the City of Houston. White Oak Bayou joins Buffalo Bayou near downtown Houston. The watershed covers about 111 square miles and includes three primary streams: White Oak Bayou, Little White Oak Bayou and Cole Creek. Vogel Creek and Brickhouse Gully are among the major tributaries in the watershed. There are about 151 miles of open streams in the White Oak Bayou watershed, including the primary and tributary channels. The estimated population within the watershed is just over 416,000.

Flooding is frequent along the bayou and its tributaries, as many homes were constructed prior to the existence of detailed floodplain maps and prior to the adoption of floodplain management regulations. Many areas in the watershed recently experienced significant flooding due the devastating rainfall amounts brought by Tropical Storm Frances in 1998 and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

Land Use
Development has proceeded rapidly and is expected to continue in the northern and western areas of the watershed.

Wildlife habitat exists on undeveloped tracts scattered throughout the watershed and has been preserved and/or created in several of the large regional stormwater detention basins constructed by the District. Little undisturbed habitat exists along the urban channels of White Oak Bayou or its major tributaries.

Port of Houston

The Port of Houston Authority is autonomous government body created by the Texas Legislature in 1927. In 1909, Harris County voters approved the Port of Houston as the Harris County Houston Ship Channel Navigation District. In 1971, the State Legislature changed the name to the Port of Houston Authority and gave the authority for fire and safety protection on the 80-kilometer Houston Ship Channel.

In 2008, the Port of Houston was the leading port in the United States for foreign tonnage and for imports. It was the second largest port in the country for total tonnage and the seventh largest container port in the US, handling 1.8 million TEUs in 2008. In 2008, over eight thousand ships called at the Port of Houston carrying 225.5 million tons of cargo.

In 2007, the Port of Houston handled 155 million tons of cargo valued at $114.8 billion. The primary cargoes were petroleum and petroleum products (91.4 million tons), organic chemicals (14.9 million tons), iron and steel (8 million tons), natural stone (7 million tons), and cereal and cereal products (5.8 million tons). The major trading partners were Mexico (29.1 million tons), Venezuela (10.6 million tons), Saudi Arabia (8.5 million tons), Algeria (6.2 million tons), and China (5.7 million tons).

In 2007, the Port of Houston handled 93.8 million tons in foreign imports valued at $61 billion. These included petroleum and petroleum products (67.3 million tons), iron and steel (7 million tons), crude fertilizer and minerals (6.8 million tons), organic chemicals (4.9 million tons), and wood and articles of wood (890 thousand tons). The leading sources of imported cargoes included Mexico (21.9 million tons), Venezuela (9 million tons), Saudi Arabia (8.1 million tons), Algeria (5.4 million tons), and China (4.5 million tons).

In 2007, exports of 52.8 million tons valued at $41.9 billion were handled by the Port of Houston. The major exports were petroleum and petroleum products (24.1 million tons), organic chemicals (10 million tons), cereals and cereal products (5.8 million tons), plastics (3.8 million tons), and miscellaneous chemical products (1.1 million tons). The leading countries receiving exports from the Port of Houston were Mexico (7.2 million tons), the Netherlands (2.7 million tons), Brazil (2.7 million tons), Spain (2.1 million tons), and Singapore (2.1 million tons).

Non-containerized cargoes through the Port of Houston in 2007 included petroleum coke (5 million tons), steel (4.7 million tons), project cargoes (2.7 million tons), and grain (1.7 million tons).

The Port of Houston handled a total of 1.6 million TEUs of containerized cargoes in 2007, almost equally divided between imports and exports. Container imports in 2007 arrived from North Europe (29%), Northeast Asia (23%), South America (16%), and the Mediterranean (12%). Exports of containerized cargoes through the Port of Houston went to North Europe (24%), South America (20%), the Mediterranean (12%), Africa (9%), the Middle East (8%), and the Caribbean (7%).

The Port of Houston is 40 kilometers of public and private maritime facilities. Handling more foreign waterborne tonnage than any other United States port, the Port of Houston is second in total tonnage in the United States after Los Angeles. Over 150 private industrial companies on the Houston Ship Channel and the public facilities managed by the Port of Houston moved over 225 million tons of cargo in 2007. The Port of Houston was the first port in the world to unload a container ship. Some one hundred shipping lines link the Port of Houston with over a thousand ports in 203 countries.

The Houston Ship Channel has been the backbone of Harris County growth since the first steamships entered Buffalo Bayou in 1837. A Martin Associates study in 2007 reported that the ship channel supported over 785 thousand jobs in Texas and generated almost $118 billion. Galveston Bay is a shallow (2-3 meters deep) 48-kilometer long inlet separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the Bolivar Peninsula to the north and Galveston Island to the south. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway stretches from Apalachee Bay, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. It follows a dredged route along Bolivar Peninsula and joins the Galveston Channel and the Port of Houston through the lower part of Galveston Bay. An alternate route for the Intracoastal Waterway intersects with the Houston Ship Channel.

Maintaining and improving the Houston Ship Channel is critical to the Port of Houston's continued growth and success. Improvements include dredging and widening the channel to accommodate the ever-increasing size of ocean-borne vessels. The improvements also reduce collisions and reduce the risks of oil spills. The Port of Houston is committed to ongoing efforts to maintain a safe, secure, and modern ship channel.

The Port of Houston's Barbours Cut Container Terminal is the US Gulf Coast's most modern inter-modal container facility. Designed to support maximum vessel productivity, the terminal is located at Morgan's Point at the mouth of Galveston Bay some 3-1/2 hours sailing time from the open sea. The terminal has six berths with a total length of over 1.8 kilometers with alongside depth of almost 12.2 meters served by thirteen wharf cranes, a roll-on/roll-off platform, a LASH dock, over 100 hectares of developed marshalling and storage area, 25.5 hectares of warehouse place, and a cruise terminal in the Port of Houston. Near the terminal is a modern refrigerated food warehouse. The terminal has a total of 26 truck lanes and an inter-modal rail ramp with spurs leading to terminal warehouses. This Port of Houston terminal has room for 24.5 thousand grounded TEUs, 342 reefer outlets, and slots for over 2500 wheeled units. It also has two 9.3 thousand square meter transit sheds and one 5.1 thousand square meter transit shed. The roll-on/roll-off facilities have access to almost 18 hectares of paved marshaling area.

The Bayport Container Terminal in the Port of Houston is a $1.4 billion state-of-the-art complex in Pasadena, Texas, and a premiere container terminal. When completed, the Bayport Container Terminal will contain seven container berths with capacity for 2.3 million TEUs as well as over 152 hectares of container yards and an almost 50-hectare inter-modal facility. This Port of Houston terminal will include a cruise terminal complex with three berths that can handle up to 1.7 million passengers. The cruise terminal will offer over 16 hectares of on-site co-development space. Designed with environmental stewardship as a goal, the terminal will preserve almost 387 hectares of coastal habitat, 81 hectares of new marsh, and a 52-hectare buffer zone.

The Port of Houston's Turning Basin Terminal is the navigational head of the Houston Ship Channel. Located just over 80 kilometers from the Gulf of Mexico, this multi-purpose complex is 13 kilometers from downtown. Along this four-kilometer section of the Port of Houston, the channel is lined with open wharves and docks with by warehouses and transit sheds that are perfect for the direct loading/unloading of vessels. The Turning Basin Terminal in the Port of Houston offers a total of 176.5 thousand square meters of covered storage and 306.6 thousand square meters of open storage.

About 2800 ships and barges call at the Port of Houston's Turning Basin Terminal's 37 docks each year with a wide range of cargoes from breakbulk, project, and heavy-lift cargoes to containers. Except for Wharves 1 and 4, all wharves are served by rail connections with the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads and service of over 100 truck lines. The nearby 81-hectare Industrial Park West offers facilities for marshaling containers, storing steel, and servicing and distributing automobiles. Industrial Park East is also near the Port of Houston and offers both paved and unpaved storage and storage sheds.

The Woodhouse Terminal occupies 40.5 hectares in Galena Park on the north side of the Port of Houston Ship Channel near the Turning Basin Terminal. Handling vessels up to 228 meters in length, the terminal offers three wharves ranging from 182 to 201 meters in length, including roll-on/roll-off capacity at Wharf 3, and depths that can accommodate the largest deep-draft vessels. The storage facilities at this Port of Houston terminal can accommodate a wide range of cargoes. In addition to 23.5 hectares of warehouse space, the Woodhouse Terminal has almost 8.1 thousand square meters of open storage adjacent to the wharves, and additional acreage is available. Rail service is provided directly to all wharves and transit sheds by Union Pacific Railroad.

The Port of Houston Authority acquired the Houston Public Elevator No. 2 in Galena Park in 1992. Located in the Woodhouse Terminal, it is one of the newest modern export elevators in the United States, and the Port of Houston continues to install mechanical and technical upgrades to keep this elevator highly competitive. With a rated storage capacity of 6.2 million bushels and loading capacity for 120 thousand bushels per hour, the Port of Houston facility is totally automated with high-speed handling equipment for grain cargoes. The elevator has 182.8 meters of docks with alongside depth of 12.19 meters. The Union Pacific serves the elevator directly and connections are available to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe. Fumigation and other services are available.

Specifically designed for project and heavy-lift cargoes, the Port of Houston's Wharf 32 is located within the Turning Basin Terminal. This state-of-the-art facility has 245.7 meters of berthing space with alongside depth of from 9.8 to 11.6 meters and over eight hectares of paved marshaling area.

The Jacintoport Terminal occupies 50.6 hectares on the north side of the Port of Houston Ship Channel near Channelview, Texas. With three berths with a total length of 559.6 meters with alongside depth of 11.6 meters, the terminal offers three hectares of paved cargo marshaling area and 52 hectares of transit sheds with covered rail areas and truck bays. In addition to an automated bagged cargo-handling system, the Port of Houston's Jacintoport has about 20 hectares of temperature- and humidity-controlled storage space. The on-site bagging facilities can package oats, corn, rice, wheat, soybeans, and other food products. The terminal offers quick access to Interstate 10 and Houston's Beltway 8 as well as connections with the two railroads via a switching service.

The Care Terminal in the Port of Houston is an almost 13 hectare facility near Channelview on the Ship Channel. With inland access to the area's major highways, it also has onsite rail siding with switching services. This Port of Houston terminal has a new state-of-the-art wharf and docks designed for project and heavy-lift cargoes. Offering two wharves with 335.3 meters of berthing space with alongside depths of 11 and 11.6 meters, the terminal has more than 6.1 hectares of open storage almost 4.3 hectares of transit shed adjacent to Wharf 1.

Handling dry bulk exports and imports, the Port of Houston's Bulk Materials Handling Plant is about 14 kilometers downstream from the Turning Basin Terminal. The plant can handle about any type of dry bulk from sand to eight-inch lumps. With high-speed loading and a sophisticated dust collection system, the facility can also handle very dusty cargoes. Econo-Rail Corporation operates this public facility offering dependable and efficient service at competitive rates. This Port of Houston plant offers 339.3 meters of berthing area, the working dock is 198.1 meters long with alongside depth of 12.2 meters. With easy access to major highways, this Port of Houston terminal serves bottom-dump rail cars and self-dumping trucks, and it has rail connections through the switching facility. The plant can operate 24 hours a day in the Port of Houston with prior arrangements, although it is normally open on weekdays. Storage is provided by outside private companies, and there is property adjacent to the terminal for lease through the Port of Houston Authority.

The Bayport Cruise Terminal in the Port of Houston is located in Pasadena, Texas, and it serves world-class cruise lines and passengers. With some of the most modern amenities available for travelers, the terminal is located near the Port of Houston's fine restaurants and luxury hotels with easy access to both regional airports. Covered walkways connect the 9.6 hectare terminal to bus and private transportation stands.        

Environmental Quality/ Monitors / Contamination remediation

    Air, water soil quality