Monday, August 22, 2005

POHA Blues

An article in The Wall Street Journal this morning can’t have made some Houston ad and PR people very happy. The Page 1 article, “Ship Shape: How Savannah Brought New Life To Its Aging Port,” lists the Top 10 busiest North American ports. Houston isn’t on the list. The story’s bylined by Daniel Machalaba.

As many of you local blog-readers know, The Port of Houston Authority (POHA) has put a lot of work into expanding and improving its facilities the past few years. As part of the process, POHA has fueled an aggressive advertising and public relations campaign, with the help and support of a changing cast of communications agencies here.

WSJ – and Houston – may have been snookered by statistics. The article’s Top 10 List is built on the total number of containers landed:

--Los Angeles (at #1, with 7.32 milllion containers)
--Long Beach, CA
--New York/New Jersey
--Oakland, CA
--Charleston, SC
--Hampton Roads, VA
--Tacoma, WA
--Savannah, GA (#10, with 1.66 million containers).

POHA’s Web site ( lists 1.44 million containers in 2004, but that adds up to just 13.96 million tons, out of a grand total of 200 million short tons in the Year 4. According to POHA’s site, this kind of tonnage has made the Port “1st in the US in foreign tonnage for nine consecutive years, 2nd in US in total tonnage for 14 consecutive years, 6th largest in the world.”

Read Savannah’s site. You’ll discover that its grand-total 2004 tonnage was just 18.3 million tons overall…putting the Georgia Port Authority rather farther down a real Top 10 list. (See the press release, 7/26/05,

As closely as I could read the WSJ, no mention of total tonnages appears in the story. So Savannah gets the press (although the story’s not completely rosy), while Houston gets left out again.

There’s no telling when even someone as conscientious as a WSJ reporter will bite on a good story about a scrappy little port doing better. Today's lesson: For what you’re advocating, keep fighting the good fight. Help the real numbers speak as positively as possible.

PS: Will someone please send Mr. Machalaba a letter?

No comments: