More than 2.13 million TEUs moved over the U.S. Gulf Coast port’s docks in 2015, up from just under 2 million TEUs in 2014, and new facilities and infrastructure expansion are expected to support additional growth.
The Port of Houston had a record year for cargo in 2015 and is looking to build off that momentum for further growth this year.
More than 2.13 million TEUs moved over the Houston docks, up from 1.95 million TEUs in 2014. A portion of the growth was the result of cargo diversion from the West Coast when ports there were virtually gridlocked a year ago due to a contract dispute involving longshore labor.
Houston is one of the few U.S. port with a relatively even balance between containerized imports and exports. In fact, exports last year exceeded imports by 152,439 TEUs.
The Port of Houston handled 30.5 million tons of cargo for the year, surpassing the previous record of 30.3 million tons set in 2014. These figures do not include bulk terminals leased to third parties.
Meanwhile, ocean carrier Grimaldi’s North America-West Africa service, which operates with multipurpose roll-on/roll-off container vessels, began calling Houston last week, according to the Houston Port Authority.
The loop operates with six vessels and will call the Barbours Cut Terminal every 11 days.
The North America-West Africa service now has a rotation of Galveston, Houston, Jacksonville, Savannah, Baltimore, New York, Dakar, Cotonou, Lagos, Lome, Tema, Monrovia and Galveston.
On Tuesday, port commissioners gave staff the green light to enter into agreements enabling the construction of the Broadway Second Main Track Project. The project requires an advanced funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation; agreements with the BNSF, Union Pacific and Texas-Mexican railways; and an escrow agreement with the railroads and a local bank.
Houston also expects to get more container business once a new 300,000-square foot refrigerated distribution center is built at the Bayport Container Terminal by AGRO Merchants Group. The port authority announced that AGRO will soon begin first-phase construction of the cargo facility, which will handle chilled and frozen meat, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables.
The Port of Houston has had limited ability to date to capture refrigerated cargo, but is now targeting this sector for growth.
Phase one will cover about 12 acres of land. Inspection and handling facilities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, blast- freezing cells and deep truck docks with many doors for shipping and receiving will be included. The facility, expected to be operational by summer 2017, will have segregated frozen and chilled warehouse space to support various product types and include value-added capabilities.
“We plan to leverage our property’s proximity to the Bayport Terminal to take advantage of legal transportation limits on overweight cargo and provide important rail and intermodal service capabilities,” Don Schoenl, president of AGRO Merchants North America, said in a statement.
AGRO, which operates 53 facilities in eight countries, is also building a temperature-controlled facility near the Port of Charleston.
Demand for logistics facilities such as AGRO’s is on the rise. Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation and its population continues to grow as other industries take up the slack from the oil sector in producing new jobs.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Port of Houston handled just over 2 million TEUs in 2014. The port exceeded 2 million TEUs in 2015 for the first time in its history.