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Texas, Louisiana ports’ January cargo volumes a mixed bag

Total volumes up in Houston and New Orleans, down slightly in Corpus Christi

Port Houston saw a 16% year-over-year increase in general export cargo tonnage in January. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Cargo flow was up at ports in Houston and New Orleans, but freight movements slowed slightly in Corpus Christi, Texas, due to lower exports of oil and petroleum in January. 

Port Houston container shipments up 4% in January

Container movements started off the year on high note at Port Houston, with the port handling 332,961 twenty-foot equivalent units in January, a 4% year-over-year (y/y) increase compared to 2023.

Officials said total container imports exceeded any January on record at the port’s two container facilities, Barbours Cut and Bayport. Full container imports increased 3% y/y in January to 154,493 TEUs.

“Import and export demand through Houston remains strong and we are certainly off to a great start in 2024,” Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, said in a news release


Port officials said imports for the month were driven primarily by goods arriving from China in advance of the country’s Lunar New Year celebrations, which began on Feb. 10. 

Total export tonnage increased 12% y/y in January to 2.6 million tons, led by general exports at 1 million tons.

However, steel imports and exports at Port Houston are off to a slow start for the year. Steel imports declined 45% y/y in January to 280,660 tons. Exports of steel declined 71% y/y to 1,776 tons.

Total revenue tonnage across all of Port Houston’s terminals also declined 3% y/y in January, totaling 4.9 million tons.


Port Houston recorded 645 ship calls in January, a 7% y/y decline, while barge calls totaled 304, a 16% y/y decrease.

Port of New Orleans records spike in containers, slips in breakbulk cargo

The Port of New Orleans reported total TEUs in January of 45,871, a 23% increase compared to the same period last year.

“January 2024 was a record month with 45,871 TEUs — a number we had not seen since the second quarter of calendar year 2021,” Kimberly Curth, Port of New Orleans spokeswoman, told FreightWaves. “Compared to January 2023, loaded imports were up by 24% and loaded exports were up by 19%.”

Curth said the port’s total TEUs are up 13.4% for the fiscal year.

“To support our empty supply, our import empties were up by 44% fiscal year over year,” Curth said.

Top import containerized commodities were plastic resins and miscellaneous chemicals. Exports through the port included coffee, furniture and wood products. 

Breakbulk cargo totaled 86,503 short tons in January, a 35% y/y decline compared to the same month in 2023. Top breakbulk imports continue to be steel and natural rubber.

The port handled 8,708 Class I rail car switches in January, a 38% y/y decrease. The port handles switching operations for six Class I railroads: BNSF, CN, CSX, CPKC, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.


The port had 36 vessel calls in January, a 14% y/y increase compared to 2023.

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) board of commissioners also recently awarded a $2.2 million contract to Cycle Construction Co. for the NOPB Transloading Industrial Park project.

The industrial park will provide a site for shippers to enhance the movement of freight between rail and truck across the U.S., port officials said.

Port authorities in New Orleans recently announced construction is underway for the $3 million Transloading Industrial Park. (Photo: New Orleans Public Belt Railroad)

“The Port of New Orleans and the NOPB continue to provide multimodal infrastructure improvements to move freight more efficiently through our global gateway,” said Brandy D. Christian, the CEO of the port and NOPB. “These upgrades not only offer customers and railroad partners a competitive edge, but also will help grow the economy and bring jobs to the region.”

Once completed, the transload yard will have the capacity to service up to 21 rail cars. Infrastructure improvements include three additional rail tracks, rail switching capabilities, drainage improvements and road upgrades.

Construction on the Transloading Industrial Park is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. 

Port of Corpus Christi’s cargo volume results mixed

The Port of Corpus Christi in South Texas moved 16 million tons of cargo in January, a 2.4% y/y decrease from the same month in 2023.

The port handled 9.74 million total tons of crude oil during the month, a 0.4% decrease compared to the same year-ago period. Exports of crude oil for January were 8.9 million tons, a 1% decrease from last year.

Shipments of petroleum totaled 5 million tons during January, a 6.7% y/y decrease. Exports of petroleum were 4.2 million tons for the month, a y/y decrease of 4.5%.

Dry bulk cargo totaled 634,662 tons during the month, a 24% y/y decrease. Shipments of bulk grain totaled 356,626 tons, a 357% y/y increase.

Shipments of chemicals totaled 185,792 tons in January, a 26% y/y decline.

The Port of Corpus Christi had 560 ship and barge calls in January, a 19.5% y/y decline from 2023.

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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 Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]