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Gulf Coast ports’ April cargo volumes get boost from imports  

Port Houston sees 21% growth in container volumes; Port of New Orleans records 115% breakbulk increase

Port Houston reported a 21% year-over-year increase in container volumes in April, handling a total of 334,493 twenty-foot equivalent units. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Gulf Coast ports continue to see strong import volumes of steel, plywood, home goods and passenger vehicles, and exports of petroleum and crude oil.

Port Houston reports busiest April on record

Port Houston reported a surge in container volumes in April, handling a total of 334,493 twenty-foot equivalent units for the month.

It was a 21% year-over-year increase compared to the same month in 2021. Year-to-date container volume at Port Houston surpassed 1.2 million TEUs in April.

Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, said the trend in the Gulf Coast shipping industry is for container volumes to continue growing every month throughout the year.

“The demand is phenomenal and it’s going to stay that way all year,” Guenther said during the port’s monthly meeting Tuesday. “Steel imports from the general cargo facilities are also moving across at a rapid pace.”

Steel import volume was up 47% year-over-year in April at 376,039 tons. Steel volumes year-to-date are up 106% compared to the same period in 2021 at 1.7 million tons.

Guenther said the port recently handled the largest-volume container ship in Port Houston’s history for the month of April.

“We had about 8,000 moves on just one ship; that’s either coming off or on a vessel at 35 moves per hour per crane, which is very efficient,” he said. “We expect to see more of these types of ships here.”

Imports of finished vehicles grew 70% year-over-year for the month of April with 5,045 units, driven by imports of automobiles from Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Fiat. However, automobile import volumes are down 18% year-to-date, 3,410 units short of last year’s volume for the same period.

Loaded container exports during April were up 25% year-over-year at 114,860 TEUs, boosted by exports of resin, chemicals, cotton and other goods, port officials said.

Outbound empty container volume was up 6% in April compared to the same month last year, at 43,155 TEUs. Outbound empty container volume is up 80% year-to-date at 215,306 TEUs worth of empties shipped out of Port Houston’s container terminals.

Port Houston will expand its hours at the Bayport and Barbours Cut container terminals to include Saturdays beginning June 4. The new gate hours were put in place to help optimize the flow of cargo through the terminals, Guenther said.

“Nothing is off the table. We are thinking creatively and actively working with our customers to improve velocity,” he said. 

Port of Mobile refrigerated cargo posts 58% increase

Container volume boomed in April at the Port of Mobile, with the Alabama State Port Authority reporting a 39.7% year-over-year increase in container traffic.

At the port’s intermodal container transfer facility, volume grew 112.6% compared to April 2021, while refrigerated cargo grew 58% year-over-year, according to port officials.

Commodities that regularly pass through the Port of Mobile monthly include heavy lift and oversized cargo, coal, aluminum, iron, steel, copper, lumber, veneers, roll and cut paper, cement, and chemicals.

APM Terminals and the Alabama Port Authority reached a deal to add 32 acres to APM’s 134-acre facility at the port, officials announced Thursday.

The increase will bring APM Terminals’ annual throughput capacity to 1 million TEUs.

The expansion project is the fourth time the port authority and APM have expanded the container terminal since it opened in October 2008. The $104 million Phase IV expansion is expected to be completed by early 2025, officials said.

“This added capacity will allow our port to keep pace with demand and maintain fluidity and service for our customers,” John C. Driscoll, director and CEO of the Alabama Port Authority, said in a release

Port NOLA breakbulk increases 115%, but container volume declines 

For the third consecutive month, Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) saw increased breakbulk cargo but declining container volumes.

The port recorded a 115% year-over-year increase in breakbulk cargo tonnage in April to 163,310 tons. In recent months, Port NOLA has seen breakbulk cargo ranging from steel, natural rubber and project cargo to plywood and coffee.

Port NOLA’s container volume declined 19% year-over-year in April to 45,322 TEUs. 

The port handled 12,904 Class I railcar switches in April, a 1.7% year-over-year decrease. The port handles switching operations for six Class I railroads, including BNSF Railway, CN, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

Port of Corpus Christi sees continued growth in crude oil, petroleum

The Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas moved more than 15.5 million tons of cargo in April, a 1% year-over-year increase from the same month in 2021.

The port handled 8.9 million tons of crude oil during April, a 2% increase compared to the same year-ago period. Exports of crude oil for April topped 7.9 million tons, a 2% decline compared to last year.

Imports of crude oil increased 90% year-over-year in April to just over 1 million tons.

Shipments of petroleum totaled 5.3 million tons during April, a 4% year-over-year increase. Exports of petroleum totaled 4 million tons for the month, a 4% decrease.

Imports of petroleum increased 35% year-over-year in April to 1.3 million tons.

The Port of Corpus Christi had 702 ship calls in April, a 30% year-over-year increase from 2021.

Watch: FreightWaves’ Check Call podcast delves into when spot rates will recover.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]