Gulf Coast ports got a boost in May from strong container volumes, as well as imports of steel and plywood and exports of crude oil and petroleum products.
Port Houston reaches all-time TEU record in May
Port Houston hit an all-time record for monthly container volumes in May, handling 335,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, a 16% increase over the same period last year.
“Container activity continues to be at record levels. It seems like we’re talking about new records at the port every day,” Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, said during the port’s monthly meeting Tuesday. “There’s really no signs of [volume] backing off of the imports or exports and actually the exports are beginning to rebound a little bit.”
Total import tonnage was 2.8 million tons in May, a 32% year-over-year increase. Total export tonnage was 2.1 million tons, a 2% year-over-year decrease.
Imports of steel increased 72% year over year in May to 401,587 tons. Imports of general cargo increased 83% to 840,351 tons.
Port Houston has been handling about 13,000 daily interchanges combined at its Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals but a single-day record of 14,000 on June 23, said Jeff Davis, Port Houston’s chief operations officer.
Davis said the port was working 26 ships Tuesday. “We have seen pretty much the same on a daily basis, but it has not been without challenges,” Davis said.
Port Houston expanded its hours at the Bayport and Barbours Cut container terminals at the beginning of June to include Saturdays. The new gate hours were put in place to help optimize the flow of cargo through the terminals.
Davis said Saturday volumes have been a little “disappointing” so far but hopes more trucking operators will begin to utilize the extra workday.
“We’ve seen a couple of 1,000 transactions on Saturdays. We’re seeking about half of a normal day of the week. We’d love to see 6,000 transactions at a minimum on Saturday,” Davis said.
Imports of steel increased 171% year over year in May to 646,548 tons. Imports of general cargo increased 4% to 601,543 tons.
Port Houston recorded 713 total ship calls in May, a 5% increase from the same period last year.
Nashville, Tennessee-based Ceres Terminals Inc. also recently announced the opening of a 75-acre container yard directly adjacent to the Barbours Cut Terminal.
The new yard will provide container services, servicing steamship line partners, beneficial cargo owners and the trucking community. The yard will also provide services for final-leg deliveries to meet cutoffs, according to a press release.
“This yard will provide our customers with much-needed near-dock capacity as well as supply chain efficiencies which we hope will relieve some of the stress on the container terminal,” Adam Brooks, COO of Ceres Terminals, said in a statement.
Port NOLA sees 88% increase in breakbulk but container volume declines
For the third consecutive month, the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) saw a large increase in breakbulk cargo but a decline in container volumes.
The port recorded an 88% year-over-year increase in breakbulk tons in May to 262,728 tons.
In recent months, Port NOLA’s monthly volumes have been boosted by shipments of coffee and plywood.
Port NOLA’s container volume declined 30% year over year in May to 35,535 TEUs. Like many ports across the country, Port NOLA said it has been hampered in recent months by a shortage of cargo containers.
The port handled 12,621 Class I railcar switches in May, a 9% year-over-year increase. 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 sees growth in petroleum, crude oil
The Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas moved 15.2 million tons of cargo in May, a 9% year-over-year increase from the same month in 2021.
Total shipments of crude oil totaled 8.7 million tons, of which 8 million tons were exports, during May. Exports of crude oil saw an 8% increase from the same month last year.
The port also handled 5.3 million tons of petroleum during May, a 18% increase compared to the same year-ago period. Exports of petroleum for the month topped 4.2 million tons, a 20% increase from the same period last year.
The Port of Corpus Christi had 635 ship calls in May, including 374 liquid cargo barges and 180 liquid cargo ships. It was a 10% year-over-year increase in total ship calls compared to May 2021.
Watch: FreightWaves carrier update for May 29.
More articles by Noi Mahoney