It is the fourth busiest port in the United States according to the American Association of Port Authorities and the thirty-fourth largest in the world in terms of tonnage. It is also the busiest military port in the U.S. and the second busiest military port in the world and the headquarters of the United States Army's 842d Transportation Battalion, which specializes in port logistical activity.
The port's origins date to 1908, when crews dug a 9-foot-deep canal in the Neches River from Beaumont, Texas to the existing Port Arthur ship channel. The port's channel was later deepened to 25 feet and a turning basin was added. By the 1940s, the channel's depth increased to 40 feet.
Once a division of the city of Beaumont, the 51st Texas Legislature established the port as a navigation district, or separate taxing entity, in 1949.