Photo courtesy Port Houston

Port Houston Container Volumes Stay Strong in September

Mike Schuler
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October 17, 2022

Port Houston on the U.S. Gulf Coast has reported another very strong month in September as it continued to benefit from shifted inbound trade flows in the hangover of the pandemic-fueled imports boom.

In fact, September marked the second-biggest month ever for containers at Port Houston, following only August 2022. Port Houston last month handled 353,525 TEUs, for a wopping 26% increase over September 2021.

“The increase in volume is largely due to demand for imported goods and a more efficient gateway, and loaded import container volume was up 31% in September over the same month last year,” Port Houston said in its announcement. “Overall, container volume is up 18% year-to-date at Port Houston’s terminals and is nearing the 3M mark already this year.

“Despite rumblings of economic slowdown, Port Houston’s terminals are thriving and have thus far showed no signs of slowing,” the port said.

Data released last week by Descartes showed overall imports into the U.S. falling a precipitous 11% in September compared to the same month last year. But the biggest losers continue to be the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together make up the nation’s busiest port complex by far, while East and Gulf Coast ports have remained at or near records. While the infamous backups at Los Angeles and Long Beach have improved this year, importers began shifting cargo away from the West Coast ports amid congestion issues and unsettled labor negotiations between dockworkers and employers.

Port Houston, with its two Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals, has been perhaps the biggest winner of shifting trade flows, but has also not proven to be immune to congestion problems. AIS data as of Monday showed more than 20 containerships waiting at port anchorages.

Port Houston’s announcement highlighted its infrastructure growth plans, including adding wharves and container yard space. In addition, recently the Port Commission approved the purchase of 26 hybrid-electric rubber tire gantry (RTG) cranes and three new electric ship-to-shore cranes.

“We are doing everything we can to maintain fluidity at our terminals,” said Roger Guenther, Executive Director at Port Houston. “We’ve created additional temporary space on terminal and accelerated our investments in additional container yards. We appreciate our customers for working with us by evacuating their containers quickly, and want to encourage them to take advantage of the recently- added Saturday gate hours in addition to our weekday gates.”

In other Port Houston news…. Steel imports used heavily by the state’s oil and gas industry were up 32% in September and year-to-date are up 76% and have surpassed 4M tons. Crude oil production in the Texas Eagle Ford region has been increasing steadily since early this year, and Texas rig count and number of drilling permits are both up.

Auto import units were up 241% in September compared to last year and are up 4% year to date. Total tonnage at Port Houston’s facilities is up 26% for the year through September.

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