SSA Marine to break ground on Texas City terminal

SSA Marine to break ground on Texas City terminal

SSA Marine has decided to begin construction on a long-proposed Texas City container terminal between Houston and the Gulf of Mexico.

The project's future has been in question since SSA's partner, Americana Ships, reportedly declined to invest any money in the $600 million development. SSA has repeatedly offered a partnership to the Port of Houston, but the port has turned it down, claiming the location is inferior to its own $1.2 billion Bayport Container Terminal project.

SSA Marine spokesman Andy McLauchlan said the global stevedore and terminal operator has decided to finance the $200 million first phase of the Texas City International Terminal on its own. Initial development will include a 125-acre container yard with a 2,000-foot berth, four container gantry cranes, a three-lane access road and a 40-foot channel depth.

"We are in the process of letting the first construction package that deals with surcharging soil -- to ensure soil compaction so there is no or little settlement when heavy cargo handling equipment and full containers are stacked on the container yard -- as well as leveling and clearing the site," McLauchlan said. "We expect to be breaking ground toward the end of the month."

If construction begins this month, the SSA terminal at Texas City could open about the same time as the Port of Houston's first phase of Bayport in 2006. The master plan for the Texas City terminals includes five berths that could handle up to 2.5 million TEUs annually. Bayport's Phase 1A is designed to include 1,660 feet of a total 7,000-foot wharf and approximately 65 acres of a planned 1,043-acre facility.

Houston's Bayport project, which would be of a similar size, has received all its permits, but is awaiting the outcome of a federal lawsuit filed by a group of environmentalists and local residents seeking to stop it. The federal judge in the case recently refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal. Instead, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore scheduled a fast-track process on the merits of the claim and set the process to begin in April and end with a decision May 4.

In return, the Port of Houston has agreed to delay construction of the terminal until Gilmore issues a ruling.