Photo courtesy Port Houston/Twitter

Port Houston Handles Record 3.5 Million TEUs in 2021

Mike Schuler
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January 28, 2022

Port Houston, the busiest container port along the Gulf Coast, has reported handling a record 3.5 million TEUs in 2021, surpassing its previous record set in 2020 by 15%.

Total cargo tonnage hit nearly 52 million tons, setting another new record. This was up 11% compared to 2019, when the previous record was set.

Between March and December, container volume increased by double digits. In December alone, Port Houston handled 303,204 TEUs, a 10% increase compared to a year earlier. Of those, 148,301 TEUs were loaded imports and 90,660 TEUs were loaded exports.

Port Houston said imports were the “driving factor” for the majority of the growth.

Preliminary unaudited statistics for 2021 show Port Houston processed a record nearly 3.5 million TEUs, a 15 percent increase compared to 2020 when Port Houston’s container TEUs surpassed the 3 million milestone for the first time.

Ports on the U.S. gulf and east coasts have benefitted from congestion on the U.S. west coast, particularly in Southern California at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach.

Port Houston said it’s “growing list” of direct services currently includes 21 weekly services, six of which are Asia-direct with two including a Vietnam call.

In December truck turn times averaged less than 50 minutes, with more than 13,000 gate transactions completed in a single day late in the month.

Port Houston also reports a “boom” in the addition of distribution centers with 5 million square feet of warehouse space becoming operational in 2021 and 7.3 million under construction for delivery in 2022.

Multipurpose facilities bounced back in 2021, with a “noticeable rebound” of steel imports in the third quarter. Steel imports grew 93% year-over-year in December, bringing 2021’s overall growth to 52% when compared to 2020. Bagged goods, auto imports, lumber and wind power equipment all also increased from the previous calendar year.

To help handle the cargo growth, Port Houston is expecting three new neo-Panamax STS cranes to arrive in February, which will add to an existing fleet of 26 STS cranes and 110 RTGs.

The Houston Ship Channel Expansion – Project 11 is also underway as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released its FY22 Workplan for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, showing $142,515,000 in federal funds for the construction of segment 3 of the infrastructure project.

Separately, Port Houston has reported “growing pains” at its Barbours Cut Container Terminal, Construction to double the gate capacity at the terminal could create longer-than-normal wait times for truck drivers moving cargo in and out. The construction, which is expected to last until May, is part of a $43 million project that will include the addition of 14 gates at the Barbours Cut terminal, bringing the total to 29 gates.

To combat the congestion, Port Houston said it will be expanding gate hours, which are available on its website.

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