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Corpus Christi remains an energy port despite interest in diversification

Jun 23 2016

Though the Port of Corpus Christi (PCC), located on the Texas coast lying halfway between Houston and Mexico, has been striving to achieve diversification in the commodities shipped out of the port, it continues to remain, essentially, an energy port.  The deep-water port, the fifth largest in the U.S., in tonnage terms, ironed out a strategic plan two years ago and, like most ports, has always tried to identify new business opportunities in its quest for diversification.

John P. LaRue, PCC’s executive director, explained in an interview with the AJOT at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Press Center in New York, that like most ports, “we’re always looking for new business and new enterprises, so we were – the buzzword for ports is diversification - trying to find other industries, other things you can do”. 

“For years we looked at doing containers and automobiles and other specialty products, but then we realized that we’re really an energy port.  But Corpus Christi is still a major growing area for cotton, so we ship a lot of cotton to Europe, to Central and South America, and to Asia.  So a lot of the cotton that goes over there comes back to the United States in the clothes we wear, but it starts in South Texas,” LaRue maintained.

Despite its heavy dependence on energy shipments, PCC does not rely only on oil.  “We’re the largest wind energy import/export port in the United States.  We do a lot of industry related to natural gas because we have a lot of natural gas … foreign direct investments are increasing dramatically by companies looking for a place where they have a steady, stable supply of natural gas,” he elaborated, adding that there were refineries that took crude and converted it into gasoline and diesel.

LaRue said that the port was allocating considerable capital resources for modernization and expansion of docks, rail and infrastructure. 

“We have about $1 billion in a 10-year capital program, and that’s a lot for us.  About eight years ago, our capital investment in a year was probably between 18 and 20 million (dollars), so you can see we’re ramping up quite a bit,” he said.

PCC moves a lot of liquid bulk and dry bulk.  The port does not get any revenue from taxpayers in the region.  “Our revenues come from our users.  So we charge when people tie up at our docks, use our docks.  They pay a fee for the ship and they pay a fee for the cargo that’s unloaded,” LaRue noted, pointing out that the port owns its own railroad system – almost 40 kilometers of rail - inside the port. 

The lifeline of a port is the ship channel which is, usually, not visible to people, though it constitutes what can be called an “underwater highway”.

By Manik Mehta via AJOT

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