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Gulf Coast ports see growth in September amid congested supply chains

Houston, Corpus Christi and Mobile processing more steel, petroleum, refrigerated goods

As congestion continues at West Coast ports, cargo volumes continue to rise at ports along the Gulf Coast.

Port Houston container activity for September was 281,500 total twenty-foot equivalent units, up 11% year-over-year (YoY) compared to the same month last year.

It was the seventh consecutive month for containers to show double-digit growth at the port, driven largely by increased consumer spending, officials said. 

“We expect container as well as demand for steel to continue growing through the remainder of the fourth quarter and into next year,” Roger Guenther, executive director at Port Houston, said in a statement.

Port Houston’s largest gains in tonnage during September came from a 445% YoY increase in exports of steel at 5,088 tons. It was the second consecutive month that steel exports topped tonnage at the port.

Import tonnage of steel increased 131% YoY to 331,852 tons. 

Port Houston handled 10,114 TEUs in empty import containers during September, down 5% YoY, but up 17% from August. Exports of empty containers were up 122% in September from a year ago, to 66,234 TEUs. 

Year-to-date, Port Houston has surpassed the 2 million-TEU mark, with 2.5 million TEUs compared to 2.1 million TEUs through the first nine months of  2020, a 16% YoY increase.

The Port of Mobile in Alabama is also receiving record cargo volumes due to shifting supply chains, officials reported.

The port handled 44,107 TEUs in September, boosted by refrigerated cargo containers, which saw a 46% year-to-date increase over the same time last year.

The port’s Intermodal Container Transfer Facility also saw increased volume as shippers opted to utilize Mobile for rail service to Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago.

The Port of Mobile also handled 369,738 TEUs through the first nine months of the year, a 27% year-to-date increase compared to the same period in 2020.

The Port of Corpus Christi reported it moved 14.4 million tons of cargo in September, an 8% YoY increase from the same month in 2020.

The largest gain YoY in September came from liquid bulk cargo, which increased from 2,978 tons to 67,459 tons. 

Shipments of petroleum totaled 5.2 million tons at Port Corpus Christi during September, a 27% YoY increase compared to the same period last year.

Port Corpus Christi also handled 8.2 million tons of crude oil during September, a 2% decline compared to September 2020.

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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