Barge service to link Texas ports
Two Texas stevedoring companies, in Brownsville and Houston, plan to start a short sea barge service connecting the two ports in July.
Kenton E. Schaefer II of Schaefer Stevedoring in Brownsville, said it will be a joint service with Richardson Marine in Houston and will be offered to U.S. and Mexican shippers.
While the service will accept all sorts of breakbulk cargo, it largely aims at high demand by buyers and sellers of steel products, he said. Other bulk, breakbulk and project cargoes are expected to be attracted to the service.
Schaefer noted the weak dollar has made U.S. steel more attractive to many Mexican importers because its relative cost compared to steel coming from overseas. These include companies based around Monterey, Mexico, as well as central and southern Mexico that have not been the traditional hinterland for the Port of Brownsville. In addition to Brownsville Schaefer has facilities in Tampico and Veracruz and is familiar with the Mexican market.
“These companies want to buy American steel, but they can’t put a barge load together,” he says. So the new service will assist companies by pooling shipments.
Rather than having to buy enough steel to make up a full barge load — about 1,500 tons — buyers and sellers of just a few hundred tons will be able to take advantage of the lower cost of moving cargo by water between the two cities.
“The other part of this is the exports, the Mexican product going into the U.S. that typically goes by truck,” he said.
Shippers typically pay about $45 a ton to move cargo by truck between the two cities, he said, and the new service may be able to do the same move for about two-thirds the cost.
Transit time will be about five to seven days, but Schaefer said “if it is not time sensitive, and a lot of this stuff isn’t, then it just makes sense.”
In addition, he notes there will be an environmental benefit to removing trucks from Texas highways.
While the two companies are just beginning to market the service, Schaefer said the service might appeal to, for example, mills in the Monterey area that buy coils or flat products from U.S. producers and then make it into tubing, angle channels or beams that they then ship to Houston.