Texas' 624 miles of coastline are dotted with more than 970 public and private wharves, piers, and docks handling waterborne freight. In 2008, more than 534 million tons of commodities moved through these channels. With the deepening of the Panama Canal (estimated to double capacity by 2014), Texas waterways are projected to move more goods than ever.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) connects ports from St. Marks, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. The 423-mile Texas section is about one-third of the waterway's total length and handles 58 percent of the annual waterborne traffic. The waterway has unique transportation advantages in Texas and is an important component of a safe, effective, multimodal transportation system.
Texas' 16 seaports include 12 deep water ports with channels at least 30 feet deep. Ten Texas ports are designated as foreign trade zones (FTZ). The U.S. government considers FTZs to be outside U.S. Customs territory, and merchandise may be brought into an FTZ without formal customs entry, import quotas, or most other import restrictions.
The Houston-Galveston, Texas U.S. Customs District leads the nation in
waterborne foreign trade by total cargo volume
with over 262 million metric tons in 2011.