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Port Of Houston Sees New High in Ship Count as Congestion Worsens In The US

February 24, 2022

The number of container ships waiting at the ports of Houston and Charleston, South Carolina, reached new pandemic highs as importers looking to avoid bottlenecks on the U.S. West Coast encounter growing congestion in alternative gateways.

At least 19 vessels were either moored or anchored off Houston as of Wednesday, continuing the Gulf Coast port’s record volume from last year, according to vessel data compiled by Bloomberg since the second quarter of 2021.

Three new neo-Panamax STS cranes capable of servicing some of the world’s largest ships arrived at the hub’s Bayport Container Terminal earlier this month to help build on last year’s 15% growth in container volumes. The new equipment should be fully operational by early summer, according to the port, which will also use federal funding to deepen and widen its ship channel.

Charleston, which saw a record spike in container ships in January, faces several more weeks of heavy congestion. Dealing with a queue of 33 waiting ships, the marine traffic jam now exceeds neighboring Savannah’s 2021 high of 28 waiting vessels.

Charleston, also handling record volumes, has been receiving deliveries of chassis manufactured in Vietnam to increase trucking capacity and ease its backlog, which has more than doubled since the end of January.

By Kevin Varley, Bloomberg