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HOUSTON-Port of Houston Authority is looking to buy – if necessary, condemn – three tracts of land totaling 577 acres.

The Port needs most of that acreage to fill with dredged material from the widening of the Houston Ship Channel, but a 20-acre tract is needed for access to the voter-approved Bayport Container Terminal, which it hopes to start building in 2002. Port officials intend to negotiate with Olin Corp., owner of 400 acres, and Dow Chemical, owner of another 157.4 acres, near the Jacinto Terminal in Channelview, according to Tom Kornegay, the Port’s executive director. The 20-acre parcel would be used for road and rail access to Bayport.

The Port says it may use its power of eminent domain to acquire this acreage plus a four-acre tract from American Acryl to be used for a truck entrance to Bayport. Bayport will require the expenditure of $88.5 million for essential real estate transactions, such as relocating the road to Bayport and providing for truck access. It also faces a $35.3-million bill for improvements to the existing Barbour’s Cut Container Terminal at Morgan’s Point and $26.6 million for improvements to the ship channel’s turning basin.

No wonder the Port’s board voted a boost in rates charged shippers at the turning basin, Jacintoport, Woodhouse, Barbour’s Cut and Galveston Container Terminal. The cumulative increase has totaled 3%, except at the Galveston Terminal, where the increase is 1.8%.

“We have a commitment to Galveston to keep our rates below Barbour’s Cut,” says Kornegay. Houston currently leases the container terminal from Galveston, which subsidizes the $300,000 expense of hauling containers from the island to the Port of Houston. In turn, Houston subsidizes $450,000 annually for wharfage and dockage charges to shippers, Kornegay says. Plans to merge the Port of Galveston into the Port of Houston await a Galveston audit by Deloitte & Touche.

But Port business is good. Kornegay predicts net income of $17.6 million in 2000, but it has already passed the $25.5 million mark, inspiring the Port executive to predict $26.3 million in net income for 2001. Containers passing through the Port through November 2000 had totaled 984,669 in comparison to 912,930 for the first 11 months of 1999.

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