2020 Year in Review

Port Bureau News,

Serving Our Members in the New Now

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Marine Service, Inc.

2020 is the year that threw us onto a global Tilt-a-Whirl ride as we adapted to continuing business during the COVID-19 pandemic. It validated the old maxim that life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. The world-altering, paradigm-shifting developments for living and business operations were on-going and look to continue as we welcome the new year. It’s made every day a “new now” as we faced major disruptions and morphed from up close and personal to masked and remote. The new now became a strenuous environment for everyone, and the Greater Houston Port Bureau sought to quickly adapt services and diligently work to serve our members with the data and connectivity needed to benefit commerce on the Houston Ship Channel.The mission of the Port Bureau is to champion the port region’s efficiency and success by bringing together key stakeholders, businesses, and organizations to address the challenges that impact our waterway. We promote the advancement of the region’s maritime prosperity through advocacy, networking, port information and vessel information. Remodeling our methodologies to achieve these core goals in serving members defined our daily activities.

The mission of the Port Bureau is to champion the port region’s efficiency and success by bringing together key stakeholders, businesses, and organizations to address the challenges that impact our waterway. We promote the advancement of the region’s maritime prosperity through advocacy, networking, port information and vessel information. Remodeling our methodologies to achieve these core goals in serving members defined our daily activities.​

Advocacy & Outreach


Like every business, the first quarter of 2020 reflected in-person events in the greater community. Port Bureau president, Captain Bill Diehl, began the year by serving as the keynote speaker at TXCPA’s 2020 Tax Expo, participating in the Inner City Capital Connection kickoff program hosted by Regions Bank, speaking at the Port of the Future: Improving Security, Logistics, Technology and the Workforce Conference, leading monthly Port 101 seminars, and representing the Port Bureau at various maritime-related board meetings and functions such as the USACE Coastal Texas Study public open house.

By the end of March, the world had tilted and outreach began to reflect the initial goals of doing business in the new now. Captain Diehl hosted four “Ask the Captain” calls with U.S. Coast Guard Captain Kevin Oditt from Sector Houston-Galveston to discuss port status and COVID-19 impact updates. He also facilitated a special webinar featuring a discussion with Senator John Cornyn and Tim Jeffcoat, Small Business Administration Houston District Director on the Investment and CARES Act on April 9. (Visit txgulf.org/page/covid19.)

Port 101 seminars pivoted to Zoom events for the May, June, and July sessions, and in September Captain Diehl presented a new seminar – the Panama Canal and Its Impact.

Captain Diehl joined the digital speaking circuit in the fall, giving a presentation to Intertanko in October, sitting on a panel for Ship2Texas with port executives in November, and participating in a podcast for Texas Time Capsule.


Captain Diehl, along with several Port Bureau Board members usually join the Economic Alliance in their advocacy trip to Washington, DC, each spring but advocacy initiatives halted briefly as the pandemic tilted everything into remote operations. Learning to Zoom, however, aptly helped us focus-in on advocating for significant projects – particularly working with members, public officials, and community partners in support of Project 11. As a result, the Port Bureau’s Board of Directors signed the following Project 11 support letters in 2020:

“Assumption of Maintenance” to R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on May 18

  • Resolution of the Board of Directors in Support of a Houston Ship Channel Expansion Project to Widen the Entire Galveston Bay Reach and Provide Additional Channel-Deepening and Safety Improvements on June 1
  • “Draft General Conformity Determination of Houston Ship Channel Expansion Channel Improvement Project” to Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District on December 21
  • “New Start Designation” to President Trump on December 22

The Port Bureau was also able to provide media support to the Houston Chronicle, New York Times, industry analysts, and trade publications to promote the port of Houston and including Project 11 in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation. Our participation with media emphasized the regional unity for the Ship Channel’s expansion project.

Advocating for other important port region measures in 2020 included letters of support for:

  • “Funding Support of a NSMV” (Training Vessel) at Texas A&M-Galveston to Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz on May 11
  • “I-10 Bridge Replacement Support” to the Texas Department of Transportation on July 7
  • “Seafarer Crew Changes Support” to the chairs of the Homeland Security Committees in the House and Senate on September 24

Networking & Business Development

Commerce Club

The Port Bureau’s monthly Commerce Club luncheons kicked off the year with guest speaker Melissa Williams from Shell, presenting Are We There Yet  , an outlook on IMO 2020 Sulphur Cap Compliance. February’s luncheon hit a milestone for the Port Bureau as we reached standing room only capacity during the talk from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo . 2020 looked to be a great year for guests to stay current and to enjoy networking with fellow professionals at the Port Bureau’s Commerce Club events.

One day prior to March’s event, the officials closed the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Following the need for an abundance of caution, the Port Bureau’s board of directors cancelled the Commerce Cub scheduled for the next day. After a pause, the Port Bureau rebooted the Commerce Club to suit the new now and went virtual via Zoom in July. Guest speaker Texas Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07) discussed infrastructure and port improvements, including the expected benefits from WRDA 2020. (The webinar can be viewed here.)

2020 Commerce Club Guest Speakers

Four more events were hosted in August, September, October, and November. Each Commerce Club featured a presentation from the speaker and a Q&A session. Thanks to our generous Annual Commerce Club sponsors - Enterprise Products Partners, Kinder Morgan Houston Marriott South, Houston PilotsIntercontinental Terminals Company, Moran Shipping Agencies, Inc., Regions Bank, Targa Resources, and West Gulf Maritime Association - the Port Bureau was able to offer these virtual events at no charge to guests.

Annual Maritime Dinner

Our flagship event, the Port Bureau’s Annual Maritime Dinner , was slated to honor A. J. “Jim” Teague, Co-CEO of the general partner of Enterprise Products Partners L.P., as the 2020 Maritime Leader of the Year, for his outspoken advocacy and financial investment to improve the Houston Ship Channel and for rallying industry to work together to achieve that goal. The largest formal maritime business event in the U.S., the Annual Maritime Dinner attracts over 750 attendees, bringing together maritime, transportation, and industry professionals and their guests.

Our disappointment in cancelling the event is exceeded only by our enthusiasm for the opportunity to honor Jim Teague at the 2021 Annual Maritime Dinner. The Port Bureau looks forward to hosting the port community in an evening that should be an exceptional time of recognition and fellowship at the 2021 Dinner. Honoring Mr. Teague’s dedication and advocacy for the Houston Ship Channel in an atmosphere hopefully freed from the dizzying Tilt-a-Whirl ride will be among the best of celebrations. Thank you to all our 2020-2021 Annual Maritime Dinner sponsors .


Welcoming players to the beautiful greens of Sugar Creek Country Club on November 2 for the 12th Annual Captain’s Cup Tournament was a special pleasure for the Port Bureau. It was our first in-person event since February, and the enthusiasm could be felt from the fair skies to our members, guests, and sponsor representatives. First place went to the HDR, Inc., team, with players Scott Marr, Bob Newell, Danny Weston, and Dave Weston.

The day’s sport included three closet-to-the-pin, two hole-in-one, and the longest drive contests. Refreshments were served and fun-to-get giveaway were received at the hospitality tents from our sponsors. A raffle of popular prizes and dinner at the clubhouse topped off the event. All players went home with the gift of a JBL Clip 3 portable Bluetooth speaker.

Port Information

Analysis, Reports & Projects

The Port Bureau News  magazine reaches over 5,000 readers. A variety of reports and informative articles on a broad range of industry topics, including updates from our members, a column from Port Bureau president, Captain Bill Diehl, and a vessel movement analysis for Texas deepdraft ports are published in each issue. See the side bar for a list of the major articles and reports for 2020. All articles and additional information are available on the Port Bureau’s website at txgulf.org. A larger archive of past editions and feature articles is planned for 2021.

In March, the Port Bureau began pushing out special reports to members as we all began to navigate the operation uncertainties of COVID-19. This began on March 17 when the Port Bureau released best practices guidelines for the Houston Ship Channel area. Based on multiple industry and government resources, the guidelines established a baseline for safely continuing maritime commerce on the waterway.

On March 20, we began publishing daily Port Region Status reports, including updates for the greater port of Houston, maritime information from other deepdraft ports, and relevant news from agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, CISA, and Texas Homeland Security for our members. This report moved to weekly distribution and began to include a Weekly Vessel Arrival report in April. The report reflects a breakdown of Houston vessel arrivals by vessel type and arrivals by port for the other deepdraft ports of Texas for the preceding three weeks.

Also in March, the Port Bureau published clarification/guidelines on the impact to essential workers of the quarantine order for travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans as well an essential workers letter template. A COVID-19 resources section was added to our website at txgulf.org/page/covid19. In addition, Captain Diehl shared strategy thoughts for maritime business leaders in a special Captain’s Corner, published digitally, entitled “What’s the Plan?”. The article shared key considerations with business leaders on responding to a COVID-19 case at their facility.

Adding to the Tilt-A-Whirl effect was the unusually busy storm season. Port Bureau vice president, Christine Schlenker, recapped essential information on port condition status from Port Team Coordination (PCT) conference calls for digital distribution. PCT updates were issued regularly – sometimes twice daily – for fog conditions on February 11 and February 17-18; Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hanna on July 23-24; Tropical Storm/Hurricane Marco on August 22; Tropical Storm/Hurricane Laura on August 22-28; Tropical Storm Beta on September 18-23; and Tropical Storm Delta on October 7-8.

Major Articles & Reports

Special Reports
  • Best Practices Guideline for the Houston Ship Channel area
  • March 19th Afternoon Update: Resumption of Operations at Bayport and Barbours Cut Terminals
  • Daily Port Region Status
  • March 28th Clarification/Guidelines on the Impact to Essential Workers of the Quarantine Order for Travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans
  • What’s the Plan? Key Considerations for Business Leaders Responding to a COVID-19 Case at their Facility
  • March 30th Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM)’s Revised Process for Granting Exemptions to the Governor's Quarantine Order for Critical Infrastructure Employees
  • Essential Worker Access Letter Template
  • Weekly Vessel Arrival Report

Committee Work

Committees thrived in 2020 as industry members strived to continue being engaged in the port community despite the cancelation of in-person activities.

Advocacy Committee

The Advocacy Committee continues to promote the port of Houston, broaden understanding and recognition of the significant trends and value of the port region to existing and new markets. The group focuses on messaging opportunities to share through events, articles, collateral materials, and media interviews how the greater port of Houston is the number one port in the U.S. for tonnage, providing unmatched capacity, flexibility, and reliability. This awareness strengthens support for projects crucial to the future of the port region, such as the recent passage of 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)/Project 11, and continues to promote Houston’s maritime values in the wider community.

Efficiency Committee

Members of the Efficiency Committee focused on planning and participating in the trial of PortXChange, a collaborative vessel and terminal planning platform. The trial officially launched on June 8 after months of preparation, and it is currently slated to continue through March 2021.

Membership Committee

The Membership Committee helped the Port Bureau navigate through pivoting to virtual events and finding new ways to provide our members with timely and critical services.

Port Region Industry Support

As a part of our mission to promote cooperation and efficiency within the port region, the Greater Port Bureau offers support services to various local industry organizations. In 2020, this included providing administrative and meeting support to the Houston Ship Channel Security District and Greater Houston Coffee Association as well as maintaining the website for the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee.

Looking Ahead

As we transition from the new now to a new normal in 2021, the Greater Houston Port Bureau pledges to stay alert to the most effective ways to serve our membership and community partners with the best data and fostering collaboration for solutions to the challenges that lie ahead. We bring a legacy of 92 years of commitment to advancing the port region through advocacy, networking, port information, and utilizing a robust repository of vessel movement data. Move into the new normal by maximizing your engagement for continued progress and prosperity in the Houston Ship Channel community through continued membership or new membership with the Greater Houston Port Bureau.