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Special Feature: Deep Thinking

Editor’s Note: This article is featured in the latest edition of the Port of Brownsville Directory

Arguably, the most valuable asset of any port is the depth of its channel.

The depth of a port’s channel can be compared to the length of an airport’s runway. The longer the runway, the bigger the planes. The deeper the channel, the bigger the ships.

For example, with just one more inch of draft – or depth – a ship can carry 770,000 additional bushels of wheat valued at more than $60,000.

The Port of Brownsville plans to deepen its channel from 42 feet to 52 feet – 10 feet deeper! With that much additional draft, the cost savings for shipping goods across the Earth’s oceans reach an economy of scale far greater that those of the one-inch example. Which also means, more jobs to handle more cargo at the Port of Brownsville.

The port’s current channel depth is 42 feet, ranking it among the Gulf of Mexico’s deepest ports. So why deepen an already deep channel?

Since 1914, most of the world’s leading seaports designed shipping channels to match the depth of the then new Panama Canal at 40 feet – the most important shortcut in ocean shipping. In recent years, ships have dramatically increased in length and draft, prompting a massive expansion of the Panama Canal that became operational in 2016.

The Panama Canal’s newest locks can accommodate ships drafting more than 50 feet and longer than four football fields. The canal expansion served as a catalyst, motivating U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico ports to harmonize channel drafts with those in Panama to accommodate a flood of new shipping infrastructure challenges.

After years of effort, planning and success, the Port of Brownsville received channel deepening authorization in 2016 from the U.S. Congress. The project received authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction, expected to be in 2020. Deepening the port’s channel means bigger ships, more cargo, and more jobs for the Rio Grande Valley.

However, the cost of channel deepening is expensive, very expensive. The port estimates the cost may be as much as $350 million. Creating an affordable financing strategy required the right mix of fiscal sensibilities and creative solutions. The answer was found in a public, private partnership, combined with eligible federal dollars and port funds.

NextDecade, owner of the proposed Rio Grande LNG natural gas liquefaction plant (largest of the proposed Port of Brownsville LNGs), adopted the P3 strategy as its own in a landmark agreement with the port in April 2019, agreeing to pay 100 percent of the deepening project from the western boundary of its lease site along the ship channel to its offshore origin (more than nine miles) – or more than half of the deepening project. Other proposed development projects are expected to join the P3, sharing in both the cost and benefit of a deeper channel.

Special Feature: Building the Future From the Past at the Port of Brownsville

The Port of Brownsville knows shipbuilding and ship recycling, a combination of disciplines found nowhere else in the Lone Star State.

With shipbuilding DNA in its heritage, Keppel AmFELS is making waves at the Port of Brownsville. In late-April 2019, dignitaries participated in the ceremonial keel-laying of the M/V George III and the cutting of the first steel plate for the M/V Janet Marie. Delivery for both 774-foot-long vessels is set for 2020.

Keppel, traditionally the port’s largest employer and the foremost U.S. offshore rig builder, recently won construction contracts for the two container ships for Honolulu-based Pasha Hawaii, with options for two more. The contracts, valued at $400 million by Keppel, mean 700 new well-paying jobs at the port in 2019 and a new industry for Texas. The twin U.S. Jones Act vessels carry up to 2,525 TEUs and utilize Keppel’s proprietary LNG propulsion technology, resulting in reduced air emissions and better fuel efficiency.

To assist Keppel’s transition into shipbuilding, the port was awarded a $1.8 million Economic Development Administration grant in late-2018 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help offset the financial commitment to construct a Vessel Assembly and Erection Pad (PAD) where the ships are assembled. The expected total cost for the PAD is $5.4 million. The benefit to the port community is an asset that will attract additional shipbuilding activities for years, creating even more well-paying jobs in the process.

The company – best known in the U.S. for designing, constructing and building offshore oil platforms and rigs – is also a leader in refurbishing and repairing rigs and platforms. For nearly 30 years as a member of the port community, the international oil industry has counted on Keppel AmFELS to safely deliver stateof-the-art rigs and platforms, on time and on budget.

Flanking Keppel AmFELS shipyard along the port’s ship channel are the nation’s leading ship recyclers, representing a legacy industry at the port. Together, they claim an estimated 85 percent of the nation’s ship recycling business, where U.S. Navy, U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and commercial ships berth for the last time. Leading ship recyclers calling the port home include All Star Metals, EMR Group (ISL) and SteelCoast, among others. Each of these experienced recyclers creates hundreds of jobs and all yield high quality steel scrap, in great demand by both domestic and foreign steel mills. The port’s recyclers are expanding with new infrastructure and improvement investments totaling more than $10 million in 2018, with more spending planned for 2019.

Building on the Port of Brownsville’s respected reputation as the final berthing place for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, the USS Independence recently joined the exclusive and growing fraternity as the fifth Forrestal Class flattop to rest in peace at the port. ISL won the Navy contract and responsibility to recycle the 60,000- ton ship, representing the third carrier recycled by ISL.

The Independence was home to tens of thousands of veterans throughout its 39 years of service before being decommissioned some 20 years ago. But it lives on – along with many other recycled ships – as parts of modern vessels, automobiles, appliances and a vast array of modern conveniences.

Keppel AmFELS, traditionally the port’s largest employer and the foremost U.S. offshore rig builder, recently won construction contracts for two container ships for Honolulu-based Pasha Hawaii, with options for two more.

Port of Brownsville Recognizes Truck Drivers

The Port of Brownsville along with the entire trucking industry is honoring the millions of professional truck drivers who work to deliver America’s freight safely and securely every day.

During National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (Sept. 9-13), the Port of Brownsville will offer free breakfast and lunch to truck drivers doing business with the port. The port also partnered with the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority to distribute 500 giveaway bags to truck drivers at the Foust and SH 550 entrances.

On a daily basis the Port of Brownsville welcomes 800 to 1,000 trucks that enter the port to pick up cargo and deliver it across the nation. The types of commodities they carry- petroleum based products, sugar, salt, windmill components and steal- serve as the backbone of several industries in the U.S.

There are more than 3.5 million professional truck drivers nationwide – delivering everything from food to local grocery stores to books to neighborhood schools. These professional men and women log close to 724 billion miles annually and last year, delivered over 70% of the U.S. freight tonnage – or 10.77 billion tons. 80 percent of U.S. communities depend solely on the trucking industry for their goods and commodities.

To learn more about how essential truck drivers are to their communities and the economy, visit

On a daily basis the Port of Brownsville welcomes 800 to 1,000 trucks that enter the port to pick up cargo and deliver it across the nation.

Two New Mobile Cranes Coming to Brownsville

In June of this year, the Port of Brownsville ordered two new mobile harbor cranes increasing its dockside handling capacity as the seaport experiences higher cargo volumes across its range of services.

The two new Konecranes Gottwald Model 6 mobile harbor cranes will be delivered to the port fully assembled and commissioned, ready to begin work as early as December 2019. The cranes will handle a wide variety of cargo including breakbulk, bulk products, heavy project cargo and steel products.

The Model 6 cranes have advanced mobile harbor crane drive technology from Konecranes that meets EPA Tier 4f emission standards, helping the Port of Brownsville reduce its environmental footprint.

“The Port of Brownsville continues to invest significantly in its continued growth, including expansion of our on-dock lifting capacity,” said Eduardo A. Campirano, Port Director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville. “We look forward to the operational and environmental performance that the Konecranes Gottwald Model 6 offers as we continue to serve our rapidly growing customer base.”

Giuseppe Di Lisa, Sales and Marketing Director of Konecranes’ Business Unit Mobile Harbor Cranes, said: “The two new cranes are the right choice for the Port of Brownsville, which needs to increase its handling performance while reducing its impact on the environment without sacrificing versatility and flexibility. These mobile harbor cranes will come into their own in this port, which handles many different types of cargo.”

The new Konecranes drive concept for mobile harbor cranes combines, depending on the crane model, Volvo Penta 625 kW diesel engines and 125 kW ultracap modules. This concept includes SCR exhaust technology as an option, meeting EPA Tier 4f and EU Stage V emission standards. This pacesetting drive technology with its downsized diesel engine will be introduced in phases across the entire Konecranes Gottwald mobile harbor crane portfolio.

The Port of Brownsville’s new Model 6 cranes will be G HMK 6507 two-rope variants featuring a powerful lifting curve with a maximum lifting capacity of 125 tons and an outreach of up to 167 feet.

To maximize uptime, the cranes will be equipped with a remote access function giving the customer and the Konecranes service team access to operating and diagnostics data around the clock without interrupting crane operation.


The Port of Brownsville’s new Model 6 cranes will be G HMK 6507 two-rope variants featuring a powerful lifting curve with a maximum lifting capacity of 125 tons and an outreach of up to 167 feet.

$3 Billion and 51,000 Jobs is Only the Beginning at the Port of Brownsville

By John Reed

Chairman Brownsville Navigation District

The latest economic impact report shows that the Port of Brownsville generated $3 billion in annual economic activity that produced $201 million in tax revenues and supported more than 51,000 jobs across Texas. And we’re just getting started.

As the only deep-water port on the US-Mexico border, the Port of Brownsville is a unique resource in the complex world of logistics. We are strategically located close to major manufacturing centers, energy sources and agriculture markets in both the United States and Mexico. We have convenient rail and interstate highway access into both countries, connecting shippers and producers with markets around the world. We support more than 230 companies currently operating at the port, providing a reliable base for local jobs, taxes and economic activity for the entire region. And unlike most ports, we have ample available land that is needed to support large-scale operations like ship recycling, transit of massive wind-power turbines, and heavy manufacturing. We have 40,000 acres and 17 miles of waterfront access, allowing us to carefully balance economic and environmental priorities to provide a safe, secure and sustainable center for international trade.

But the latest economic impact figures do not tell the whole story.

This year, we will inaugurate an additional liquid cargo dock to support the growing demand for energy products. We will open a rehabilitated bulk cargo dock that will create new opportunities for the movement of grain and other agricultural products. And we will open a new staging platform that facilitates shipbuilding operations, putting Brownsville on the global map as a growing maritime manufacturing center.

With the backdrop of these exciting developments, we await the careful regulatory approvals for a series of additional investments to bring new energy operations to the port that will create even more career opportunities and economic opportunities for generations throughout the Rio Grande Valley – beyond the 8,500 who currently have jobs related to the port. We await final decisions surrounding a potential new state-of-the-art steel mill that would create additional long-term economic opportunities. These potential investments total almost $40 billion, positioning Brownsville to be perhaps the most active center of economic development in Texas and beyond.

To support this increased activity, we continue to prepare for the deepening of our ship channel to 52 feet from the current 42 – opening up opportunities for larger vessels from around the world. This project will be an innovative partnership between public, private and federal funding to responsibly share costs while making a significant investment in the future.

While today’s economic impact report is very impressive, indeed, we remain very excited about the opportunities ahead as our recent investments begin to generate new growth and new jobs. We await approvals on future investments, knowing that – as shown in the report – our success here radiates throughout the Rio Grande Valley and the State of Texas.

We’re just getting started, at the port that works.


Special Feature: Enabling Economic Evolution

After years of courtship, community input, planning and permitting, largescale industrial development is about to transform the Rio Grande Valley’s economic landscape with billions of dollars of investment and thousands of new jobs at the Port of Brownsville.

Three liquified natural gas projects, representing a combined projected investment of $38.75 billion[1] are in the homestretch of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitting, with final investment decisions expected by late 2019 and 2020. Not to be outdone, Arkansas-based Big River Steel is refining its strategy to locate a $1.6 billion electric arc steel mill at the port. These successes are attracting additional industrial development to the port and Brownsville, supported by a youthful, educated, abundant and motivated workforce. No other domestic maritime complex rivals the Port of Brownsville’s ability to attract and develop logistically focused manufacturing, processing, warehousing and distribution facilities.

All of these projects are situated on the port’s 42-foot deep 17-mile-long channel, where each of these active development opportunities finds affordable land with abundant energy resource options at the Port of Brownsville. Newly available inducements include electrical transmission upgrades delivering 345 kilovolts of electric power directly to the port by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and the completion of the $1.6 billion Valley Crossing Pipeline (VCP) in late-2018. Owned and operated by Enbridge Inc., VCP’s transport capacity is half the average daily production output of the entire Eagle Ford Shale Basin and more than 10 percent of the average daily production of the entire state of Texas. That amounts to 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of clean-burning natural gas for south Texas homes and industry – and 27 million Mexican consumers.

While accomplishing these unprecedented milestones, the port went about quietly setting new tonnage and revenue records in 2018, the most recent complete reporting period. For the second year in a row – and three of the last four years – the port set new highwater marks of success with 11.3 million short tons of total cargo and $24,209,767 of unaudited total operating revenue.

[1] Industrial Info Services, Cameron County, Texas, Looks Toward $44 Billion in Potential Project Starts, Thanks to LNG, (IRR: April 10, 2017)

Port of Brownsville Update on KURV’s Radio Show

Port Director and CEO Eduardo A. Campirano was recently a guest on KURV’s radio show “The Valley’s Morning News”.

Campirano spoke about the Port of Brownsville’s economic impact in the Rio Grande Valley as reported by an independent analysis conducted by Martin Associates.  The report shows that the Port of Brownsville serves as a major economic driver in the development of jobs and revenue in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The port does have a very significant impact not only in the region, but also contributes greatly overall to the maritime industry in the state of Texas.” said Campirano.

Listen to the interview HERE

According to the Independent analysis conducted by Martin Associates, the Port of Brownsville is responsible for the creation of 8,500 jobs directly or indirectly related to port activity



Study Shows Positive Economic Impact by the Port of Brownsville

 Major Activity at the Port Supports Increase in Jobs and Revenue for the State and Region

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (August 22, 2019) — In Texas where a trade-friendly economy is growing, the Port of Brownsville supports a total of $3 billion in total economic activity for the state and is responsible for more than 51,000 jobs within the borders.

Such findings are based on an independent analysis conducted by Martin Associates on port activity for the 2018 calendar year.

“We celebrated a record year in tonnage earlier and are pleased to see our economic impact set a strong foundation for future growth,” said John Reed, Brownsville Navigation District Chairman. “The numbers on local job growth speak for themselves as factors in the port’s development into a hub of business activity.”

The Port of Brownsville has become a major center for industrial development with over 230 companies doing business in the region. Furthermore, 51,468 jobs in Texas are related to the cargo moving through the marine terminals and activity at the ship building and rig repairs. Personal income from such employment totaled at $2.6 billion. In addition, a total of more than $200 million in tax revenue were generated by activities at the port.

The study found 8,500 local jobs are supported by $151.3 million of local purchases by business supplying services at the marine terminals and by business dependent upon the port for ship and receipt of cargo.

“The data clearly show that the Port of Brownsville is a remarkable resource with a reach extending far beyond the Rio Grande Valley,” said economist John Martin, PhD, who authored the latest report. “With more than 51,000 jobs related to the port’s operations and more than $3 billion in total economic impact across the state, the port is a significant driver of opportunities today and in the future.”

Not included in the report are revenues from leases and rents, non-waterborne activities and fishing harbor operations. These values will be mentioned in future economic impact reports.

The Port of Brownsville is a hub of major economic activity. In 2018, the port set new records in tonnage, moving 11.3 million short tons of diverse cargo of energy and liquid products, agriculture goods, aggregates, wind-turbine components and steel. The port also generated more than $24 million in operating revenue. Such activity is set to continue the positive impacts on the region’s economy and workforce.

The analysis was based on interviews from firms providing services to the cargo and vessels handled in marine terminals at the navigation districts. Impacts measured were jobs, employee earnings, business revenue and state and local taxes.

For a complete copy of the report, visit

About the Port of Brownsville

The Port of Brownsville is the only deepwater seaport directly on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the largest land-owning public port authority in the nation with 40,000 acres of land. It transships more steel into Mexico than any other U.S. port.

With more than $43 billion worth of projects currently in the works, the Port of Brownsville is transforming the Rio Grande Valley by creating positive investment opportunities and jobs.



Activity at the Port of Brownsville creates more than 51,000 jobs and adds $3 billion in total economic activity in the state of Texas, according to a recent economic impact study performed by Martin Associates.

Special Feature: Mexico Makes Sense

The Port of Brownsville’s proximity to Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy, uniquely positions the port as the nation’s key transshipment gateway delivering goods and commodities to nearby multinational manufacturing centers on both sides of the border.

Ranking among the top U.S. steel ports, the Port of Brownsville moves more steel into Mexico than any other domestic competitor.  In 2018, the port moved 3.2 million short tons of steel across the southern border.

Nearby Monterrey is a major industrial center in northern Mexico with a metropolitan population of nearly 5 million and home to dozens of commonly recognized international corporations. Monterrey is located 200 miles due west from the Port of Brownsville, where steel makers have come to rely upon the logistical efficiencies provided by the port. Convenient border crossings are located just seven miles from the port by truck and 13 miles by railroad.

In fact, the Port of Brownsville is more than 100 miles closer to Monterrey than the nearest Mexican port.

Recently implemented Mexican oil reforms, with the introduction of free market price dynamics in the fuel market – in addition to strong exports of steel – are contributing to the dramatic increase of cargo crossing the border. Ultra-low sulfur diesel, premium gasoline and specialty lubricants make the trip southbound by truck with increasing volumes and frequencies. Fuel imports, like No. 6 fuel, travel northbound by unimpeded rail crossings to the port as well.

These increases firmly entrench the port’s foreign trade zone as a consistent export leader. In the most recent report to Congress, FTZ No. 62 ranked number two for the third year in a row for the value of exported goods out of 293 FTZs in the U.S., reaching $3.6 billion for the reporting period.

That comes as no surprise with more than 10 million eager consumers within a three-hour drive of the port – with many of those located south of the border. Moving cargo across the border in both directions is made easy with a wide variety of reliable transportation options.

Providing Class 1 rail service to and from the port to Mexico and all of North America includes Kansas City Southern de México for operations south of the border, with Union Pacific and BNSF Railway serving northern routes. On-port rail service is provided by agreement with OmniTRAX, operating the Brownsville Rio Grande International Railway (BRG) on more than 45 miles of port-owned railroad.

When trucks are a better option, the Port of Brownsville claims conceptual ownership of the state’s first overweight corridor. Trucks crossing the border in either direction utilizing the corridor, to or from the port, can load to the legal weight limits of Mexico – 125,000 pounds (45,000 pounds heavier than domestic limits). That translates into remarkable savings in both time, money and logistical efficiencies.

The Port of Brownsville ranks among the leading U.S. steel ports, moving more steel into Mexico than any other domestic competitor.