This week, Texas pride got another shot in the arm with the expansion of the Port of Corpus Christi. Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we will begin deepening our channel from 47 feet to 54 feet.
To put this in perspective, look at the rich history of the port. Nearly a century ago, in 1920, the port opened with our first customer, Aransas Compress Company, a producer and exporter of cotton. At that time, port officials sought to deepen the channel to 30 feet as part of a strategy to grow and attract business. It worked, and over the years the port gradually expanded its customer base and grew into the energy sector.
In 2015, 95 years and 17 feet later, the first shipment of American crude oil was exported from Corpus Christi. It marked the first of such a shipment in 40 years due to the ban on crude oil exports. That shipment represented a hallmark moment for us, Corpus Christi is now the largest crude export port in the nation.
In three years, we went from shipping zero crude to exporting $10.8 billion worth of crude oil to U.S. trading partners around the world. Our leadership in exporting energy has been an economic windfall for our community and Texas. We are now the fourth largest port in the United States in total tonnage and our exports are a major contributor to offsetting our country's trade deficit. We have improved national security, making us much less dependent on foreign energy sources.
The ship channel expansion project, which officially commenced this week, will take the Port of Corpus Christi to an entirely new level and help to support the incredible growth of energy production in West Texas from the Permian and Eagle Ford regions. Already, pipelines are being built from those fields to the port to meet the incredible international demand for Texas oil and gas.
The port expansion will allow us to accommodate VLCCs (very large crude carriers) which we believe will add another $40 billion a year of export goods value. That is equivalent to 10 percent of the U.S. trade deficit with China. And that equates to economic prosperity for Texas.
The expansion will also benefit our customers who will be able to export more product in single shipments in larger vessels, providing significant savings to them and decreasing congestion in the ship channel.
We are proud of the bipartisan political support we have received from the Texas and federal governments. Together we are advancing to the next era of moving America's energy and delivering benefits far beyond our borders. Seven feet may not seem significant to those outside the port industry, but the impact will be enormous.