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Gulf Coast ports continued to see rising volumes in October

Port Houston sees 239% growth in bagged goods shipments; Port of Corpus Christi sets crude oil export record

Crude oil exports drove a record third quarter for the Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas, totaling 48.3 million tons for the period. (Photo: Port of Corpus Christi)

Gulf Coast ports got a boost in October from imports of steel, plywood and bagged goods, as well as exports of petroleum and crude oil.

Port Houston sees strong gains in imports

Port Houston saw a 13% increase in container volume during October, led by increased demand for bagged goods, plywood and auto imports, officials said.

Port Chairman Ric Campo said 2022 hasn’t shown any signs of “softening” demand at the port.

“Our volumes continue to be strong — we continue to hear about volume across the country softening, but that still hasn’t happened here,” Campo said during the port’s November meeting. “Three of our best months ever were over the last three months with more volume at Port Houston.”

Port Houston handled a total of 371,994 twenty-foot equivalent units for the month, a 13% year-over-year increase compared to 2021.

Overall, container volume is up 18% year to date at Port Houston’s terminals, totaling 3.3 million TEUs.

Goods seeing significant increases during October included bagged goods, up 239%, and

plywood, up 73%, according to a news release. Auto imports were up 61% year over year during October and 9% year to date. 

Steel imports were down in October, the first time the commodity has seen a year-over-year decline since June 2021.

Steel import volume decreased 20% year over year in October to 295,334 tons. Steel import volumes year to date are up 63% compared to the same period in 2021 at 4.4 million tons.

Loaded container exports during October were up 25% year over year at 118,781 TEUs. Full import container volume was up 20% year over year at 181,292 TEUs.

Port Houston totaled 696 ship calls in October, a 2% decline compared to the same month last year. The port also handled 245 barges in October, a 29% decline compared to October 2021.

Port of New Orleans sees gains in breakbulk and container volumes 

Port of New Orleans saw increased breakbulk and container cargo volumes during October, bolstered by shipments of steel, rubber and coffee, officials said.

The port recorded total breakbulk tonnage of 150,313 short tons in October. Year to date, the port has seen a 38% increase in breakbulk cargo compared to the same period in 2021.

“Commodity-wise, steel continues to be our number one breakbulk import and rubber is our second highest,” Port of New Orleans spokeswoman Kimberly Curth told FreightWaves. “In October, we had a unique shipment of a 40-meter-long steel pipe that was discharged to the dock and reloaded to a barge, and we received a third breakbulk coffee vessel.” 

The port reported 18 breakbulk vessel calls in October, the same as September.

Container cargo totaled 41,934 TEUs for the month, up 19% compared to September and 8% year to date over the same period last year.

“We had 32 container vessel calls in October, the highest yet of this fiscal year,” Curth said. “This is an indication that market dynamics — including ocean freight pricing and demand — have shifted to a more favorable environment for exporters. We’re hopeful this trend continues during the coming months.”

The port handled 29,384 Class I railcar switches in October. The port handles switching operations for the six Class I railroads that operate in New Orleans: BNSF Railway, CN, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

Port of Corpus Christi sets tonnage record 

The Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas moved a record 48.3 million tons of commodities during the third quarter, a 4% increase over the previous record set in the second quarter of 2022.

The growth was primarily a result of strong exports of U.S. crude oil to Western European buyers that have moved away from Russian imports, port officials said.

“In these times of uncertainty, moving America’s energy to other U.S. demand centers and our overseas allies and trading partners has never been more critical for our economic and national security,” Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge said in a news release.

Crude oil shipments during the third quarter totaled 28.7 million tons, for a gain of 5% over the prior record set in the second quarter.

Total tonnage for refined products for the third quarter amounted to 8.3 million tons, liquefied natural gas shipments were 4.2 million tons and dry bulk cargo came in at 2.1 million tons.

For October, the Port of Corpus Christi moved 16.8 million tons of cargo, a 15% year-over-year increase from the same month in 2021.

Shipments of crude oil totaled 10.3 million tons during October, a 24% year-over-year increase. Exports of crude oil totaled 9.4 million tons for the month, a 25% increase from the same month last year.

The port also handled 5.5 million tons of petroleum during October, a 10% increase compared to the same year-ago period. Exports of petroleum for the month topped 4.3 million tons, a 4% increase from the same period last year.

The Port of Corpus Christi had 733 ship calls in October, a 32% year-over-year increase from 2021.

Port of Mobile container cargo posts 5% increase

Despite a modest slowdown following the holiday shipping rush, October delivered the second-highest monthly container volume total month in the Port of Mobile’s history.

The Alabama port handled 45,990 TEUs in October, a 5% increase compared to the same year-ago period. 

“With 467,222 TEUs moved year to date, 2022 volumes are 12.8% higher than volumes at this point in 2021, keeping the port on track to post a record year, anticipated to break 550,000 TEUs,” Port of Mobile spokeswoman Maggie Oliver told FreightWaves.  

During September, the port recorded 52,911 total TEUs, the highest monthly container volume total for the year so far.

Oliver said intermodal rail freight volumes are up 143% year to date compared to the same period in 2021, while refrigerated cargo shipments are up 11.3% year to date compared to last year.

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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 Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]