The Port of Beaumont
In 1908, a nine foot canal was dug in the Neches River from Beaumont to the Port Arthur ship channel, which carried the primary cargoes of the day, timber and cotton, to their final destinations. The cost was split between the federal government and the city of Beaumont and was eventually named the “Sabine Neches Waterway”.
In 1909, three torpedo destroyers visited Beaumont. This was the first time warships had ever visited the area. It is said that more than 10,000 people came to the banks of the Neches River to view the boats.
In 1915, the Port welcomed a new neighbor to the river. Magnolia refinery opened their facility and employed more than 900 men. Operating today as ExxonMobil, they continue to fuel our local economy as a major contributor of bulk petroleum cargo on the waterway.
Due to rapid growth, in 1916 the channel was deepened to 25 feet and a turning basin was scooped out in the bend of the river, officially making the Port of Beaumont a deep water port. Local businessmen, meanwhile, had developed dock facilities on the waterfront to accommodate the needs of the growing channel. Due to the central location of Beaumont, the city was ideally positioned to capitalize on the lumber boom of the late 19th century.
A Deeper Channel Fuels Growth
In 1920, the City of Beaumont purchased the island known as “Goat Island” for $25,000. City Council was forced to defend the purchase of the non-income producing land in anticipation of future port expansion. In 1970, taxpayers voted to approve a bond to build Harbor Island Marine Terminal using the land.
In 1922, Congress appropriated funds to deepen the port channel to 30 feet and widen it to 125 feet, increasing Beaumont’s importance as a shipping center.
In 1925 a second oil find at Spindletop improved the local economy and propelled growth at the Port. Even during the depression, the port gained acreage and experienced growth.
In 1936, the city purchased approximately 250 acres of land in Orange County, originally known as “East Beaumont”, for future Port development.
In 1937, the waterway was deepened to 34 feet and widened to 350 feet. Once again, the Port of Beaumont purchased additional acreage to increase the its footprint.
In 1941, the railroad bridge over the Neches River was completed. Rail service to the Port of Beaumont continues to be offered by three class-1 railroads; Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Kansas City Southern (KCS) and Union Pacific (UP)
In 1947, another project on the waterway to deepen it to 36 feet was funded. It had become clear to local interests that the City of Beaumont could no longer manage the municipal docks. The group petitioned for a new political subdivision to be created.
In 1949, as a result of the efforts create a political subdivision of the State of Texas, the 51st Texas Legislature created the Port of Beaumont as a political body and governmental entity of the State of Texas.
Diversification of Cargo Increases the Economic Importance of the Port of Beaumont
In 1957, docks 2, 3, and 4 became fully operational with docks 2 and 3 featuring a traveling gantry crane. Additional improvements to the north side, warehouse space and heavy lift equipment provided the Port with an opportunity to welcome additional business.
The last project to deepen the Sabine-Neches Waterway was in 1962. The channel was dredged to the current depth of 40 feet with a width of 400 feet.
In 1964, the grain elevator located at the Port became fully operational. The elevator remains in operation today and continues to be a great asset to the facility.
By 1995, more than $20 million in capital improvements to the port had been completed including the addition of a new administrative building, expansion of existing sheds and warehouses, improvements to wharves, and updates to rail and switching facilities.
Continued growth in the petrochemical and heavy manufacturing industries secures the Port’s position as an economic powerhouse.
In 2012, the Port entered into its most significant public-private-partnership to date with Jefferson Energy Companies, a small refined product storage facility. What started as a $50 million dollar investment into basic infrastructure to include a rail loop, road access, and a new dock, by the Port of Beaumont, is now a 240 acre facility leased by Jefferson Energy Companies. To date, Jefferson has invested more than $500 million into the facility, with plans to invest up to $1 billion more.
In 2014, after fourteen years of dedication by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sabine-Neches Navigation District, local politicians, and waterway advocates, President Barack Obama signed the WRRDA Bill, approving the deepening and widening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
In 2015, the Port completed over $250 million (public and private funds) in infrastructure improvements and expansion including new rail holding yards, new wharves, rail development and a new state-of-the-art liquid bulk handling facility.
In 2017, Beaumont residents passed an $85 million bond referendum, which will fund a portion of three major projects: the rebuild of Docks 2, 3 and 4; Carroll Street Overpass; and the Buford Rail Yard Interchange Track.
In 2018, the Port of Beaumont entered into a public-private partnership with Allegiant Industrial Island Park, LLC to develop a 75-acre fabrication facility.
In 2019, Martin Associates released an economic impact study revealing Port of Beaumont Channel contributes approximately $4.4 billion to the Gross State Product and over 67,000 jobs in Texas are related to cargo moving via the Port’s public and private marine terminals.
The Port of Beaumont completed $5.2 million in Capital Improvement Projects, welcomed 816 ships and barges from more than 30 countries, increased operating revenues by 42%, and increased cargo tonnage by 71.6%.
In 2020, the Port of Beaumont Board of Commissioners approved a $249 million Capital Improvement Program for fiscal year 2020/2021, comprised of 21 infrastructure improvement projects. The largest of the capital improvement projects, the $79 million Main Street Terminal 1 project, commenced in 2020. The Main Street Terminal 1 project will increase cargo handling capacity at the Port of Beaumont by more than 25%.