The Sabine-Neches Waterway Prepares for the Future

Posted by PortVision

The Sabine-Neches Navigation District describes itself in superlatives: the nation's number one crude oil importer, the number one commercial military outload port, and the third largest waterway in the US by cargo volume (125 million tons annually). The District's website also lists these impressive statistics: facilities and refineries along the ship channel store 55% of the nation's strategic oil reserves, produce 60% of the nation's commercial jet fuel, and produce the majority of US military jet fuel. Most importantly, however, is that the District is positioning itself to become the largest LNG exporter in the US and able to handle the bigger ships traveling to and from the widened Panama Canal.


PortVision is proud to be associated with stakeholders along this waterway since 2007.  Back then, the four largest oil refineries on the waterway participated in an initiative to increase efficiency and reduce demurrage (i.e. delay-related expense) along the waterway.  Today, over 200 users along the Sabine-Neches waterway collaborate through PortVision to increase transparency of vessel operations and do business more effectively.

In 2014 the US Congress approved increasing the depth of the channel.  Port managers are now focusing on the engineering and design aspects of the project. Dredging work is expected to begin in late in 2016. Deepening the waterway to 48 feet and increasing its length to 73 miles will allow the channel to accommodate the larger tanker vessels now in use. The project will also decrease the number of sharp bends in the waterway so that ships can make wider, easier turns and pass each other in certain previously restricted spots. The dredging is expected to take 12 to 15 years to complete.

KIII-TV reports that the dredging project will cost $1.1 billion, with 75% of this amount carried by the Federal Government and 25% paid by the Sabine-Neches Navigation District. The dredged material will be relocated to subsiding marshland in the area, returning 2,700 acres of wetlands to its natural state.

Winding along the Texas-Louisiana border, the Sabine-Neches Waterway forms a Y-shaped set of interlocking river channels and canals that extend from the Gulf of Mexico, past Port Arthur, to Beaumont, and Orange, Texas. At the mouth of the channel is the Port of Sabine Pass; 24 miles north along the Sabine River, Sabine Lake, Port Arthur Canal and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is Port Arthur. At Port Arthur, the waterway splits to the west 19 miles to Beaumont up the Neches River, and to the east 15 miles to Orange. It is the most important waterway in Southeast Texas.


A March report by indicates that ExxonMobil has applied for permits to expand its Beaumont refining facility which could double its current 344,600 barrel per day capacity. At this writing ExxonMobil is declining to confirm these reports.

The Beaumont Business Journal reported in March that the US Army Corps of Engineers ranked the Sabine-Neches waterway above the Port of New York and New Jersey in terms of tonnage shipped in the US. Cargo includes petroleum and petroleum products, coke chemicals, fertilizers, grain and grain products, forest products, military cargo, aggregate and general cargo.

PortVision was born out of our initial activities in this region almost a decade ago, and looks forward to continuing our support of the Sabine-Neches local refineries and maritime stakeholders throughout these waterway improvements.


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Posted on May 5, 2015 9:05:00 AM

Topics: Blog