Container Terminal one step closer to full operations

The Port of Houston Authority’s (PHA’s) Bayport Container Terminal took a crucial step toward full operation with a two-day test that included docking and security clearance of the first container ship to berth at the facility—CMA CGM’s marine vessel Orca.

The “soft opening” quietly signified the coming wrap-up of the first phase of major construction work at Bayport Container Terminal.

The initial footprint includes one container berth and 65 acres of the ultimate 1,043-acre facility, which will be built out in market demand-driven phases over the next 15 to 20 years. Bayport Container Terminal will have enough space for seven ships and a 378-acre container storage yard and will have a maximum capacity of about 2.3 million teus—a 200% increase over PHA’s current container handling capacity.

The terminal has set industry standards in the areas of environmental stewardship, noise mitigation and light intrusion, with its innovative applications of marsh and wetlands replacement and development, first-flush retention ponds that collect sediment before it runs off into Galveston Bay, and reduced-noise backup alarms, in addition to using non-glare light fixtures during its construction phase. The terminal will be in full operation by mid January 2007 and a grand opening is planned for early February.

“We are all excited about the startup of operations at Bayport and anxious to get to full speed as soon as is practical,” says PHA Executive Director Tom Kornegay. “Bayport will prove to be a vital link in the global container cargo chain and a cornerstone of the regional economy.”

Fittingly, one of the world’s most technologically advanced container ships became the first commercial vessel to call on one of the world’s most advanced container terminals.

Orca, built by Hyundai earlier this year, is flagged in the United Kingdom. It stretches the length of three football fields (964 feet), is 105 feet wide and weighs 54,000 tons. Maximum speed of the vessel is 25.1 knots, and it has a container capacity of 5,100 teus.

Her maiden voyage saw her dock Dec. 6 at Bayport, where she spent the day being cleared by US Coast Guard officers, and validating the integrity of Bayport docking procedures.

Fully loaded with shiny, dark blue CMA CGM containers, the ship left Bayport at 4:00 p.m. Dec. 7 bound for the busiest container terminal on the Gulf Coast—PHA’s Barbours Cut Container Terminal—where it was offloaded through the weekend.

Last month, PHA commissioners approved interim and long-term lease agreements with Terminal Link (Bayport) LLC—a CMA CGM subsidiary—for property at Bayport to be used as a depot for handling and storing empty containers.