economy

Port of Entry: Port ArthurEconomic Impact, 2015

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Texas' location, geography and diverse economy offer unique trade opportunities with other states and countries. Texas has a number of ports of entry, including seaports, inland ports and border crossings, which facilitate the movement of imports and exports. Texas ports of entry contribute to the state and local economies, each in a distinctive way.

The state of Texas accounted for nearly $650 billion in international trade in 2015. Of Texas' total international trade, $204 billion or 32.3 percent traveled through the state's seaports, with the Port of Port Arthur accounting for 8.9 percent of the seaport trade, or about $18.2 billion.1

Based on the Comptroller's analysis, the net benefit of trade associated with the Port Arthur port of entry contributes an estimated 68,000 net jobs to Texas and a minimum of $9.7 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the Texas economy.2 (The Comptroller acknowledges there may be other economic activities directly and indirectly associated with the use of this facility that may not be reflected here.)

The Port of Port Arthur

The Port of Port Arthur is one of 10 seaports along Texas' 367 mile-long coastline along the Gulf of Mexico.3 Each seaport facilitates the movement of goods between Texas and nations throughout the world. Each Texas seaport is unique, offering different capabilities and a variety of shipping options, including bulk, roll-on/roll-off, container and liquid/gas shipping.

The Port of Port Arthur includes:

  • a modern break-bulk facility (for large, individually loaded cargo items);
  • a 550,000 square-foot transit ship terminal;
  • a four-berth facility (2,900 feet in length) with roll-on/roll-off and gantry crane capabilities;
  • 24-hour channel and dock accessibility;
  • a 40-foot deep channel at the public facility as well as at most larger private terminals; and
  • a rail system that includes three wharf tracks with 150-rail car dockside capacity for the direct transfer of cargo, operated by Kansas City Southern.4

About 2,000 people are directly employed in port-related activities in the Port Arthur area. This includes 25 with the Port Authority and about 300 associated with the Port Arthur International Public Port. The remaining employees are concentrated at private terminals supporting large refinery operations (more than 1,000 employees) and in port and waterway security (more than 200 employees). The Port of Port Arthur supports a myriad of other port-related occupations including rail service, truck service, tug and barge operators, marine surveyors, marine agents, dredging operators and harbor pilots.5

The Port of Port Arthur, as with many Texas seaports, has associated industry nearby. Port Arthur is home to a number of oil refining operations including Valero and Motiva. The Valero Port Arthur Refinery is located on 4,000 acres along the Port Arthur Ship Channel and has a throughput capacity of 375,000 barrels per day. Valero Port Arthur's 850 employees donated more than 10,000 volunteer hours in the area in 2014. The Aramco-Motiva refinery, which employs more than 1,525, is the largest crude oil refiner in North America and the seventh-largest in the world, with a daily capacity of 603,000 barrels per day. JBS Packing, based in Port Arthur, receives 25 percent of Texas' shrimp fishing haul, processing 125,000 pounds of shrimp each day. Other operations around the port are major producers of diesel, gasoline and commercial and military jet fuel. In all, 36.7 millions of tons of cargo moved through the Port of Port Arthur in 2014, making it the 20th largest port in the U.S. in terms of volume.6

The port is covered by General Purpose Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) #116. It's also designated a U.S. military strategic port within the National Port Readiness Network and regularly handles military shipping.

Economic Data

In total, shipping activity at the Port of Port Arthur accounted for $18.2 billion in trade in 2015, an increase of 94 percent from 2003 ($9.4 billion).7

Port at Port Arthur (Port), All Trade (All Commodities), 2003-2015*.  * Trade value decrease is directly related to the lower price of oil, as a significant portion of the port's imports come from oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia. Source: Texas Centers for Border Economic and Enterprise Development

  • Top origination/destination for goods: Saudi Arabia; Mexico
  • Top Imports through Port Arthur: oil; petroleum products; wood pulp; chemicals
  • Top Exports through Port Arthur: gasoline; petroleum products; chemicals
Port of Port Arthur Trade Value, 2013-2015*
Overall Trade ($ billions) Trade with Venezuela/Saudi Arabia ($ billions)
Total Trade Exports (only) Imports (only) Total Trade Total Trade % Exports (only) Imports (only)
2015 $18.19 $6.16 $12.03 $8.18 44.97% $1.20 $6.98
2014 $33.08 $9.37 $23.71 $16.34 49.40% $1.44 $14.90
2013 $37.16 $8.16 $29.00 $20.00 53.82% $0.78 $19.22

* Trade value decrease is directly related to the lower price of oil, as a significant portion of the port's imports come from oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Source: Texas Centers for Border Economic and Enterprise Development

In May 2016, voters in the Port of Port Arthur Navigation District approved the sale of $89 million in bonds to modernize and expand port facilities. Construction associated with these bonds will commence in 2017 and employ about 350 construction workers during the two-year project. The largest aspect of this project is a $35 million, 600-foot expansion of the existing dock to accommodate additional deep-draft cargo vessels.8

The Port Arthur International Public Port has found a niche as an exporter of renewable energy wood pellets produced at two nearby plants, with about $80 million in renewable energy moving through the port each year. In addition, the port has developed an expertise in break-bulk/large project cargo handling, servicing large refiners in the area.9

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Sabine-Neches Waterway, which includes the Port of Port Arthur, recently surpassed the Port of New York and New Jersey in terms of tonnage shipped, ranking third in the nation with more than 129 million tons annually. The Sabine-Neches Waterway links the ports of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, a region collectively known as the "Golden Triangle." In 2014, Congress approved $1.2 billion to deepen this waterway to modernize and expand its capacity, a move that will aid all ports in the region.10

Federal Customs District Growth

The Port of Port Arthur is part of the larger Port Arthur Customs District, which includes the area stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Sabine Pass and laterally from Orange to Beaumont. With $26.5 billion in trade, the Port Arthur District ranked fifth in the U.S. for total waterborne volume in 2015, at 71 million metric tons.111 It should be noted that the recent decline in the price of oil has had a disproportionate effect on the value of trade in this district due to the high percentage of oil-related cargo being handled.

Port Arthur Customs District: Total Trade, 2003-2015. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Texas has 29 official ports of entry that serve as critical gateways to global trade. Each port, whether accessible via air, land or sea, serves a variety of domestic and international economic activity across multiple industries. The high quality of Texas' ports has a significant impact internationally as well as across the state from its largest cities to the most rural counties. Texas ports play an important role in the state's transportation network, as each directly contributes to and thus affects the entire transportation system. Texas ports contribute to the overall strength and diversity of the Texas economy, which ranks 10th in GDP when compared to other nations.12


  • 1 To access the trade data for each port area, the U.S. Census Bureau's USA Trade Online data tool was used. A log-in is needed (https://usatrade.census.gov/). Harmonized System (HS) Port-level Data was used for both export and import data which were added together manually to determine total trade for each port.
  • 2 Comptroller staff applied Texas trade data supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau as an input using the REMI (Regional Economic Models, Inc.) model for Texas and attributed total trade value for the port as a percent of Texas' total trade value. These data were used to generate a weighted estimate of net jobs and GDP associated with trade at the port.
  • 3U.S. Census Bureau: "Economic Indicators Division USA Trade Online," http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/projects/studies/statewide/border-crossing.html.
  • 4 Interview with Larry Kelley, deputy port director, Port of Port Arthur, November 17, 2016.
  • 5 Email communication from Larry Kelley, deputy port director, Port of Port Arthur, November 17, 2016.
  • 6 U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, "Table 1-57: Tonnage of Top 50 U.S. Water Ports, Ranked by Total Tons," http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_57.html
  • 7 Texas Centers for Border Economic and Enterprise Development, "U.S. Exports & Imports Trade Activity."
  • 8 David Ball, "Port of Port Arthur Planning Next Move After Bond Approval," The Port Arthur News (May 9, 2016); and email communication from Larry Kelley, deputy port director, Port of Port Arthur, December 6, 2016.
  • 9 Email from Larry Kelley, November 17, 2016 and "Welcome to Port of Port Arthur," www.portofportarthur.com.
  • 10 "Sabine-Neches Surpasses New York/New Jersey Port in Tonnage Shipped," The Beaumont Business Journal (May 6, 2015) http://beaumontbusinessjournal.com/article/news/sabine-neches-surpasses-new-yorknew-jersey-port-tonnage-shipped, and Port of Beaumont, "Your Global Trading Partner," http://www.portofbeaumont.com/Images/Interior/new%202016%20facilitybrochure.pdf.
  • 11 WorldCity, Inc., "WorldCityTrade Numbers," https://www.ustradenumbers.com/dashboard/customs-districts/.
  • 12 The World Bank, "GDP Ranking," http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/GDP-ranking-table; and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, "Gross Domestic Product Second Quarter of 2016 (Second Estimate)," https://blog.bea.gov/2016/08/26/gross-domestic-product-second-quarter-of-2016-second-estimate/.