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Port Houston optimistic volume rebound underway

September total shows ‘first turn toward growth’ since pandemic hit

Port Houston said that in September it saw the “first turn toward growth” since coronavirus-caused volume blows began in March.

The Texas port handled 254,405 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in September, 1% more than September 2019. From Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, Port Houston moved 2,165,581 TEUs, just 3% less than the 2,232,036 TEUs during the first nine months of 2019.

“September volumes were positive,” Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said in a statement. “Although resin exports were soft due to supply chain disruptions caused by hurricane activity in the East Texas/Louisiana border area, overall container numbers are gaining strength, especially on the import side. 

“We are optimistic that a rebound in container volumes is underway and that it will continue for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” Guenther said.

The port said September’s strong showing last month was achieved despite closure of the Houston ship channel for about three days due to Tropical Storm Beta, although terminal operations remained open to continue serving customers.  

“We’ve had a solid import peak season with retailers bringing in product from overseas in strong numbers,” Guenther said. “Our fundamentals are strong with a solid base of exports and a surge in construction activity of import warehouses and distribution centers. We in turn are investing heavily in infrastructure and people to ensure we have the necessary capacity and labor to support our growing customer base.”

The port has said it hopes to begin work next year to widen the shipping channel by 170 feet to 700 feet along Galveston Bay and deepen upstream segments of the channel to 45 feet.

Port Houston’s optimistic outlook was bolstered this week by an announcement that both ZIM and the 2M alliance of Maersk and MSC were increasing the capacity of vessels used on the Asia-U.S. Gulf trade in early November.

The 4,800-TEU ZIM Virginia and 6,572-TEU Miramarin will replace 4,400-TEU vessels, increasing the weekly capacity by just over 6%.

The port rotation of the TP88/Pelican/ZGX service is Xiamen and Yantian, China; Pusan, South Korea; Houston; Mobile, Alabama; Tampa, Florida; Manzanillo, Mexico; Balboa, Panama; Pusan; and Xiamen.

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.