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Port Houston Sees Surge in Container Exports

May 16, 2023

As U.S. imports continue to come in well below last year’s records, Port Houston has announced that its container exports are surpassing historic volumes seen in 2022, signaling strong growth in the region.

Loaded exports, particularly driven by the demand for resin exports, have increased by an impressive 17% year-to-date compared to last year. The port has handled a total of 1,026,260 loaded TEUs (imports and exports) through April, surpassing the one million-mark earlier in the year than ever before.

While a slight softening of import container cargo was anticipated this year compared to the record-breaking volumes of 2022, loaded containers at Port Houston have still shown a 3% increase for the year. Although April saw a decline of 10% in loaded containers compared to April 2022, Port Houston says the overall trend remains positive.

In terms of total container volume, Port Houston experienced an 8% decline in April 2023 compared to the same month last year, amounting to 307,879 TEUs. However, the year-to-date total container volumes have remained relatively flat, totaling 1,241,910 TEUs so far this year.

Port Houston attributes this normalization of cargo activity to the gradual recovery from the pandemic’s disruptions to the global supply chain. The port has also achieved a balance between imports and exports, with 51% of its total container cargo consisting of imports and 49% being exports through April.

Port Houston’s position along the Houston Ship Channel, along with over 200 private facilities, contributes to its status as the nation’s largest port for waterborne tonnage. Over the past year, Port Houston has made significant progress in the competitive landscape of busiest U.S. container ports, leaping from the seventh to the fifth spot nationally in the ranking based on the number of TEUs handled in 2022.

Roger Guenther, the Executive Director at Port Houston, emphasized the importance of proactive measures and infrastructure investments to meet the growing demand.

“As the fastest growing and now the fifth-largest container port in the U.S., we must remain proactive and well-equipped to meet the needs of our customers,” said Roger Guenther, Executive Director at Port Houston. “Infrastructure investments remain a priority at Port Houston, along with the expansion of the Houston Ship Channel, which is already improving vessel transit times as part of segment 1A’s completion.”

To further enhance efficiency and reduce emissions, Port Houston is transitioning its terminals to cleaner equipment. Recently, the port welcomed 16 new yard mules for the container terminals, acquired with assistance from the Sea Port Environmental Grant. These clean diesel yard trucks will mitigate emissions and optimize cargo movement within the terminals. Additionally, three new neo-Panamax STS cranes are en route to the Bayport Container Terminal to expand wharf space and capacity. The opening of Bayport’s new wharf 6 is scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

In April, steel imports continued to drive tonnage growth at Port Houston’s multipurpose facilities, increasing by 17% to reach 442,037 tons. Overall, total tonnage across all Port Houston facilities has risen by 1% through April.

By Mike Schuler