The Houston Ship Channel accounts for over 16% of the total GDP for the state of Texas. That is a HUGE economic impact that many Houstonians are completely unaware of. The ship channel stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the edge of the 610 loop, bringing millions of tons of cargo into the country from destinations around the world.

The history of our city would not be the same without this marvel of engineering and logistics. This exhibit includes an aerial map of the entire ship channel, including an additional overhead map of the channel within the context of the city of Houston and surrounding towns.

While he was working on the ship channel as a pilot, Lou Vest, a friend, and supporter of Houston Maritime, captured hours of footage of day-to-day life on the ship channel. Many of these videos have been incorporated into the exhibit so visitors can get a front row seat to what a ship sees when it travels through Houston.

Below, we have a collection of videos with Lou Vest helping decipher the complexities of the channel and piloting, as well as some images of the channel and one of Lou’s incredible video time lapses.

A time lapse of a ship being piloted through the Houston Ship Channel at night. Notice the activity on the channel throughout. Houston is a city that never sleeps!

About the Ship Channel

Where Can I see it?

Ever wonder where the ship channel really is? Lou Vest shows us where you can watch ships pass through the channel!

How big is it?

How big is the ship channel? How do you turn around a 1,200-foot ship in such a narrow bayou? Lou Vest explains how and where it’s done along the Houston ship channel.

How do ships pass each other?

With ships as large as 175 feet wide and a channel a maximum of 500 feet wide, how to you safely pass? Lou Vest explains how ships fight against hydrodynamics to pass with such narrow margins.

What size ships can go through the channel?

When the ship channel was originally dredged in the late 1800s, it was designed for ships of the era, which were never more than a few hundred feet long at most. Now, ships can be over 1,200 feet long. How do pilots handle navigating these huge ships through this tiny channel?

What IS a pilot?

We’ve talked a lot about piloting but what exactly is a ship channel pilot? 30-year pilot Lou Vest tells us the ins and outs of what a ship channel pilot does, why they’re important, and how to become one (if you’re lucky!).

Views of the Ship Channel | Lou Vest

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