Photo courtesy Port Houston

Port Houston Sees No Signs of Cargo Slow Down in October

Mike Schuler
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November 22, 2022

Port Houston is reporting another month of double digit growth in October with no signs of a cargo slow down even as total U.S. inbound volumes continue to fall.

The Gulf Coast’s busiest port handled a total of 371,994 TEUs in October for a 13% increase compared to October 2021. Loaded container TEUs reached the highest volume ever and were up 21% compared to the same month last year. Overall, container volumes at Port Houston are up 18% year-to-date and have now surpassed the 3 million mark, with 3,333,924 TEUs.

The gains come as major U.S. West Coast ports, namely the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, are seeing huge cargo declines compared to last year and total inbound container volumes at the ten largest U.S. ports tumbled by more than 9% in October—an acceleration from to the 5.3% decline in September and 0.6% decline in August, according to John McCown’s tally.

“Although the import demand in the U.S. appears to be softening, we have not seen any slowing in Houston in recent months,” said Roger Guenther, Port Houston Executive Director. “We are handling record amounts of cargo and remain focused on aggressive infrastructure development to optimize capacity and efficiently handle current and future demand through our port.”

This year’s cargo gains are driving longer wait times for ships calling at the port, with average wait times at more than seven days, according to a recent report from Maersk.

Port Houston earlier this month announced plans to start charging cargo owners with a $45 per day dwell fee for import containers lingering at marine terminals beyond a free period to encourage cargo movement. The new fee, known as the “Sustained Import Dwell Fee”, will begin December 1st for import containers lingering for eight days or more. The port is also considering increasing the fee, at the discretion of the Executive Director, to further encourage container movement.

“The additional dwell fees are intended to minimize storage of containers on terminal. Boxes need to move through the terminal quickly to maintain a fluid environment and superior level of service for our customers,” Guenther said.

Total tonnage across Port Houston’s facilities was up 18% in October and 25% for the year as compared to last year.

Port Houston said goods with significant increases for the month included bagged goods, at 239% up, and plywood at 73%. Auto imports were up 61% for the month in October 2022 and 9% year-to-date. Steel imports were down for the first time since June 2021.

“Steel volume has been strong this year, and annual steel tonnage could reach the highest quantities seen at Port Houston in more than five years,” the port said.

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