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The Port of Houston is the port of Houston, Texasmarker, the fourth-largest city in the United Statesmarker. The Port is a 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities located a few hours' sailing time from the Gulf of Mexicomarker. It is the busiest port in the United States in terms of foreign tonnage, second-busiest in the United States in terms of overall tonnage, and tenth-busiest in the world.

The port is made up of the port authority and the 150-plus private industrial companies along the Houston Ship Channelmarker and Galveston Baymarker; many oil companies have built refineries on the channel where they are protected from the Gulf of Mexicomarker. The petrochemical complex associated with the Port of Houston is one of the largest in the world.


The original Port of Houston was located at the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou in downtown Houston by the . This area is called "Allen's Landing" and is now a park. It is the birthplace of the City of Houston.

Shipping points grew at multiple locations on the Buffalo Bayou including the port of Harrisburg (now part of Houston) and the docks on the Allen Ranchmarker. By the end of the 19th century Buffalo Bayou had become a major shipping channel with traffic beginning to rival Galveston.

The citizens of Harris Countymarker approved creation of the modern port in 1909, believing that an inland port would better serve the region after the destructive Galveston Hurricane of 1900marker. President Woodrow Wilson officially opened the port to traffic as the World Port of Houston and Buffalo Bayou on November 10, 1914. Early supporters would prove to be correct; the port has grown to be one of the world's largest, while the nearby Port of Galveston has dwindled in significance.

The port today

Approximately 215 million tons of cargo moved through the Port in 2005, about half of which was containerized cargo. The Port has three separate terminals dedicated to the handling of cargo containers: Barbours Cut (the first terminal specifically designed for these shipments), Galveston East End (leased from the Port of Galveston, the Port's long-time rival), and Bayport (opened in October 2006).

The Port offers a 90-minute free cruise aboard the M/V Sam Houston, details of which can be found on its website. Since the Houston Ship Channel is closed to recreational traffic, this is the only means by which the general public can view port operations, and thus the tours are highly popular. Tours are available daily except on Mondays, holidays, and the entire month of September (when the vessel undergoes maintenance).

Most Volkswagen (and Audi) automobiles sold in North America pass through the port of Houston.

The Port is operated by the Port of Houston Authority, an independent political subdivision of the State of Texas. The Authority is governed by a seven-member Commission. The City of Houston and the Harris County Commissioners Court each appoint two commissioners; these two governmental entities also jointly appoint the chairman of the Port Commission. The Harris County Mayors & Councils Association and the City of Pasadenamarker each appoint one commissioner. Daily operations are overseen by an Executive Director who serves at the will of the Commission.

Trade data

List of Firsts

Despite being one of the youngest major Ports in the world (the Port will not reach its 100th birthday until 2014) it has already racked up an impressive list of firsts. See the pdf file for the full list of accomplishments.

Most notable firsts include:
  • The first port to be built with Federal funds and local matching funds, thus guaranteeing local support (every Port since 1910 has had a local match requirement)
  • The first direct shipment of cotton to Europe (November 1919 via the M/V Merry Mount)
  • The first container cargo ship (April/May 1956 via the Ideal X)
  • The first double-stack container train (1981)
  • When the Baytown Tunnel was removed in 1997 to allow deepening and widening of the Houston Ship Channel (it was replaced by the Fred Hartman Bridge), it was the largest tunnel so removed (35' diameter by 1,041' length) without closing the Channel, losing time due to accidents, or impacting the navigational safety of the Port.
  • The first Port to conduct air emissions testing of its off-road equipment (2000)
  • The first Port to meet ISO 14001 standards for environmental excellence (2002), and the first Port to be recertified to ISO 14001 standards (2004)


  1. POHA | Overview
  2. The port is actually misplaced on Google Earth. The placemark is in Barbours Cut, a small unloading area. The Port of Houston is further north and west.

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