Deep Water Access


Deep water access properties are located along the Houston Ship Channel which provides access from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to downtown Houston, a distance of about 40 miles. Bordering the Ship Channel are the “channel industries” which include the refinery and petrochemical companies and the major fabrication/manufacturing companies who require access to ships and barges to transport their products. Since the mid 1800s, ships and barges have traversed this waterway (was Buffalo Bayou) and industry has located on the waterway’s banks. Predictably, deep water access properties have become in VERY short supply and what’s there is VERY expensive. Barge traffic can locate on the navigable rivers branching off of the channel but ships have to have a deeper waterway and that is only available on the channel itself. Ships today can exceed 500 ft. in length and with the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, the ships will be larger coming to the Port of Houston. When industry locates on the channel, there are a number of issues with which to deal. Many times, part of the property being purchased actually lies underwater in the channel and the “usable property” has to be determined. Generally there is a “negotiation” between a buyer and seller on the value of the land area underwater. The depth of the channel adjacent to the target site may or may not allow ships to dock there unless that part of the channel is dredged, and this is also very expensive. Building a ship/barge dock can cost millions of dollars even if the property can be located, which fit all the other criteria for utility by the industry. As a result of this, any property which has these facilities already in place are in very high demand and are expensive. Large properties with deep water access and all facilities in place can have asking prices in the $10.00 psf range. There are industrial parks which feature deep water access properties. Larger barge and ship traffic is carefully controlled and the “Pilot’s Association” must approve turning radius’ and docking of these large and deep vessels which tie up near other docking facilities.