Inside Vulcan Materials’ Houston Ship Yard

By |  March 5, 2018

An operations tour during the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association‘s (NSSGA) Annual Convention took attendees to Vulcan Materials Co.‘s Houston Ship Yard.

On site during the tour was the W.H. Blount, one of three Panamax-class self-unloading vessels that Vulica Shipping, a Vulcan subsidiary, operates. Upon the NSSGA tour group’s arrival, the W.H. Blount had just completed a delivery of construction aggregate from the company’s Calica Quarry in Mexico.

“We receive base,” says Jeff Harris, a Vulcan marketing manager. “The other is clean stone. It’s used principally by concrete producers. That’s a big customer group we have here for our clean stone.”

As Harris describes, the Houston market relies heavily on concrete – more so than a number of other markets. But with few quarries in the region, aggregate producers were forced to get creative many years ago to meet the demands of Houston and surrounding areas.

Imports were one solution to which producers turned, and Vulcan’s Houston Ship Yard and Calica Quarry are results of Vulcan’s drive and creativity.

“The ship yard has been her since 1990,” Harris says. “It’s one of the first ship yards that Vulcan founded. It’s something Vulcan is really proud of.”

One vessel can bring 60,000 tons of material into the yard, the company says. Vulcan designed an off-loading system on site that can handle such volumes. Seventy-two-in.-wide conveyor belts and a 500-ton hopper are among the components necessary to offload so much aggregate from Mexico.

According to Harris, the Houston distribution yard is part of a wider Vulcan network along the Gulf Coast stretching from Brownsville, Texas, to Florida. The network was the vision of Houston Blount, a former Vulcan president and CEO.

“Houston Blount in the 1970s and ’80s created this strategy to serve the Gulf Coast,” Harris says. “The [Calica] Quarry is one of our largest at Vulcan. The thing about the quarry, too, is the product there is extremely high quality. The geologic deposit is very nice for concrete aggregate. It’s light but strong.”

According to Vulcan, the Calica Quarry employs more than 385 people.

“The Calica Quarry was located next to the water with great geology and [it was] close to where we could create the shipping network,” Harris says. “It makes the whole system work.”

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