Ports & Terminals

Port Houston Reports Record Container Cargoes

Port Houston reported January 25 that it shattered records and concluded 2021 on a dynamic note of growth with total cargo tonnage reaching nearly 52 million tons. Previously, the highest measured total cargo tonnage was 48.2 million tons in 2019.Between March and December, container volume increased by double digits, and for the full year, the port processed nearly 3.5 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), a record. Preliminary unaudited statistics show the 2021 growth to be a 15 percent increase compared to 2020, when Port Houston’s container TEUs surpassed the 3 million milestone for the first time.

Despite the volume, the port demonstrated improved efficiency; truck turn times averaged less than 50 minutes in December, and more than 13,000 gate transactions were completed in a single day late in the month.

Building Capacity In Front Of Demand

“Port Houston is not only a port authority,” said Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther. “We are also the marine terminal operator of our container facilities. Our longstanding strategy of building capacity in front of demand and investing into our terminals and our people is demonstrating results.” 

Imports are a driving factor for a majority of the growth, the port said. In December alone, Port Houston handled 303,204 TEUs, which is a 10 percent increase compared to December 2020. Data shows 148,301 TEUs account for loaded imports and 90,660 TEUs represent loaded exports for the month of December. 

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The Houston region is experiencing a boom in distribution center development with 5 million square feet of warehouse space becoming operational in 2021 and 7.3 million under construction for delivery in 2022, the port said in the announcement. Port Houston’s growing list of direct services currently includes 21 weekly services, six of which are Asia-direct with two including a Vietnam call. 

Port Houston’s multipurpose facilities bounced back competitively in 2021. Steel imports saw a noticeable rebound in the third quarter and continued to climb with a subsequent 93 percent growth in the final month of the year. Steel imports saw an overall 52 percent increase when compared to 2020. Bagged goods, auto imports, lumber and wind power equipment all demonstrated increases from the previous calendar year. 

“We are focused on accelerating expansion of our infrastructure and working with the ILA and our other partners to continue to provide world-class service to our customers and be a major force in the global supply chain,” Guenther said.  

New Cranes

Three new neo-Panamax STS cranes are scheduled to arrive at Port Houston in February, which will add to an existing fleet of 26 STS cranes and 110 RTGs.  

The Houston Ship Channel expansion, known as Project 11, is underway as well. In the Corps of Engineers’ FY22 work plan announced January 15, Segment 3 construction of the project is slated to receive $142.5 million in federal money.