Ranked 5th in the nation is a big deal

Published 8:55 pm Saturday, April 20, 2019

By Bobby Tingle

The Orange Leader


By tonnage, the Port of Beaumont on the Neches River is the 5th largest port in the United States and the 3rd fastest growing port in the nation.

The port is situated adjacent to downtown Beaumont.  From the air just south of the port and looking to the north one can see City Hall and the Edison Plaza buildings located just off Main Street.  On the south side is the main port area.

Photo courtesy of Port of Beaumont
Wind turbine blades are being unloaded at the Port of Beaumont

Interstate 10 provides highway access; railroad rails provide rail transportation via three major rail lines and the Neches River links the port to the Gulf of Mexico.

“If you combine the tonnage handled by the Port of Port Arthur with our tonnage we would be the 3rd largest port in the nation,” said Sade Chik, Manager of Corporate Affairs for the port.

Across the way, on the other side of the Neches River situated in Orange County is the primary growth factor at the port.

Jefferson Energy terminals began operation at the port with a few railroad tracks and a berth.  They have expanded rail access, storage tanks, and material transfer systems and now have an overpass to relieve rail and truck traffic congestion at the terminal.

Jefferson handles crude oil, refined products and ethanol providing terminal service along the logistical chain between suppliers and consumers.

Overall the port’s tonnage has grown 54-percent fueled in large part by the 300-percent growth at Jefferson.

Photo courtesy of Port of Beaumont

“Jefferson Energy has proven to be a good partner in our public/private partnership,” said Chik.

The Port of Beaumont is a publicly owned entity.  They partner with private investors such as those operating Jefferson Energy providing economic benefits in the community.

“The Port of Beaumont employs 42 area residents.  Jefferson Energy employs over 200 and is growing,” said Chik.

The port is 42 miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s inland location provides a safe harbor for ocean-going vessels for unloading and loading cargo.

“We handle imported aggregate products such as rock from Mexico and wind turbine components from Denmark,” said Chik.

Wind turbine blades imported from Denmark arrive by ship and are transported by rail to their ultimate site.

Photo courtesy of Port of Beaumont

“There are surprisingly a large number of sites in Texas producing energy with wind turbines,” said Chik. “But we ship the blades to locations all over the United States.”

The blades are long, roughly 40 yards in length, tapering to a point at one end with appendages resembling shark teeth at the narrow end apparently designed to aid in propelling the blade efficiently through the wind.

Military cargo is exported through the port along with bulk grains.  Driving through their storage hangars you are likely to see large bales of what looks like four by eight-foot sheets of poster board.  It is actually eucalyptus pulp used to manufacture paper products.

Chik stated the port is currently working on several renovation and expansion projects.  In order to be good stewards, they attempt to couple tax dollars with grants as they execute these initiatives.

Photo courtesy of Port of Beaumont

In the long run, there is room for growth on both the Jefferson and Orange county sides of the Neches River on port land.

For now, they are focused on growing through renovation and innovation.

The Port of Beaumont and its private partners are making a positive economic impact in Orange County.