(Reuters) - The Port of Houston could further cement its dominance in the export trade once a $5.25 billion project to widen the Panama Canal finishes in 2014.
Here are five facts about the Port of Houston:
* The Port of Houston Authority operates the port’s public facilities, including eight cargo terminals, and maintains the 50-mile (80-km) ship channel that connects the fourth-biggest U.S. city to the Gulf of Mexico and global markets for trade. The port is one of the largest industrial complexes in the nation and home to over 150 companies, including oil refineries, chemical plants and grain elevators.
* Some 50 million people live within 500 miles of the port and the tri-city region, known as the Texaplex — comprised of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio — is home to 80 percent of Texans.
* The port handles more foreign tonnage than any other U.S. port but ranked seventh for handling shipping containers in 2008. Los Angeles handled about four times as many cargo containers in 2008, but Houston made up the difference by handling more bulk freight — goods like steel, grain and finished goods like automobiles. Most Volkswagen and Audis sold in North America are unloaded there.
* The port is the second-largest petrochemical complex in the world, which refines over 35 percent of U.S. gasoline supply.
* The island of Galveston, Texas, was once home to the dominant Gulf Coast port and handled massive shipments of cattle, cotton, oil and other commodities. But Houston supplanted Galveston in size after the island was struck by a massive hurricane in 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
Sources: Port of Houston Authority, Greater Houston Partnership, American Association of Port Authorities
Editing by Eric Beech