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Rising cargo volumes continue for Gulf Coast ports in July

Houston, Corpus Christi, Mobile post increased throughput with steel, crude oil

Port Houston handled more than 3 million tons of steel cargo during the first six months of the year, a 92% increase compared to 2021. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Cargo volumes at major Gulf Coast ports continue to climb following a surge in demand for steel, dry bulk, petroleum and crude oil, according to data from each port.

Port Houston sees record steel imports 

Port Houston is handling a record amount of imported steel, with volumes from January through June up 92% compared to last year’s volume during the same period.

“Import steel is at levels we haven’t seen in nearly a decade,” Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, said during the port commission’s regular monthly meeting Aug. 2. “Total tonnage across all the public facilities is up 24% year to date.”

Imports of steel for the first seven months of the year were at 3.2 million tons compared to 1.7 million during the same period in 2021. General imports were up 54% at 5.2 million tons. Container imports were at 10.1 million tons from January through June, up 17%.

Exports of steel for the first six months increased by 4% to 29,322 tons, while general exports increased 5% to 7.3 million tons. Container exports increased 12% year over year (y/y) to 9.3 million tons.

For July, Port Houston’s steel imports increased 48% y/y to 470,849 tons. Exports of steel decreased 81% to 2,170 tons.

Port Houston handled 328,498 twenty-foot equivalent units in July, a 10% y/y increase. Year to date, the port has handled 2.2 million TEUs, a 17% y/y rise compared to 2021.

Port Houston recorded 1,013 total ship and barge calls in July, a 4% increase from the same month last year.

During the meeting, commissioners approved a $40 million contract for purchasing three dockside electric ship-to-shore container cranes for Bayport Container Terminal. The investment will give the Bayport terminal the capability to handle 15,000 TEU ships.

Commissioners also approved a $65 million to purchase 26 new hybrid-electric rubber-tired-gantry (RTG) yard cranes, adding to the 116 RTG fleet at the Barbours Cut and

Bayport container terminals. The cranes aim to reduce emissions by 70% at both terminals. 

The commission also approved $31 million at the Barbours Cut Terminal for the reconstruction of container yards 4 North and 5 North, totaling 87 acres.

Port of Mobile sets monthly TEU record in July

July was the busiest month on record for containerized cargo at the Port of Mobile, with the Alabama State Port Authority reporting more than 50,000 TEUs for the first time since it started operations in 2008.

The port authority said July was the Port of Mobile’s seventh consecutive month to post double- and triple-digit growth for overall throughput volume and intermodal rail volume, respectively. 

Port of Mobile handled 52,911 total TEUs during July, a 36% increase from the same period last year. The containers totaled 40,337 loaded TEUs and 12,574 empty TEUs for the month.

The total number of containers handled at the port from January through July was 316,473 TEUs, a 12.4% increase over the same period in 2021.

Dry and refrigerated containers posted a 35.8% y/y increase in volume for the first six months of the year, while intermodal cargo volume rose 185% during the same period.

“This growth shows that Mobile is a top choice for shippers looking to avoid congestion and delays as they move their cargo quickly and efficiently,” John C. Driscoll, the port authority’s director and CEO, said in a statement.

Mobile is on track to surpass 500,000 TEUs in 2022, according to the port authority. 

Port of Corpus Christi sees increased exports of crude oil, petroleum 

The Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas moved more than 16.5 million tons of cargo in July, a 22% y/y increase from the same month in 2021.

The port handled 9.9 million tons of crude oil, a 25% increase compared to the same period a year ago. Exports of crude oil were at 8.9 million tons, a 20% increase compared to last year.

Imports of crude oil increased 80% y/y to just over 1 million tons.

Shipments of petroleum totaled 5.3 million tons, an 18% y/y increase. Exports of petroleum totaled 4.2 million tons for the month, a 32% increase.

Imports of petroleum jumped 20% y/y to 1.2 million tons.

Dry bulk cargo totaled 844,384 tons, a 32% y/y increase, with imports coming in at 581,407 tons and exports 262,976 tons. 

The Port of Corpus Christi saw 662 ship calls, a 4% y/y increase from 2021.

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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 [email protected]