Container flow in June slipped in Houston, while the global demand for crude oil continued to fuel the flow through Corpus Christi. The Port of New Orleans reported plastic resins, chemicals and coffee as their top containerized cargo during the month.

Steel cargo continues to boost Port Houston volumes

Port Houston handled 315,983 twenty-foot equivalent units in June, a year-over-year (y/y) decrease of 2% compared to last year’s record-breaking monthly total of 323,823 TEUs. 

Roger Guenther, executive director at Port Houston, said cargo traffic at the port has remained steady in 2023.

“Overall tonnage through midyear 2023 is down 4% when compared to a really remarkable and record-setting 2022,” Guenther said during the port’s monthly commission meeting Tuesday. “The container demand remains very solid through the first half of the year. We’ve handled 1.8 million TEUs across all of our public docks. Loaded exports continue to lead the way in containers with an increase of 12% compared to last year. Loaded imports are only down 7% year to date, which relative to the rest of the country is very good.”

Loaded exports were up 1% y/y in June at 103,726 TEUs. Loaded imports were down 7% y/y to 146,636 TEUs.

Imports of steel products such as rail and oil industry components were up 11% y/y in June at 417,628 tons. 

General imports were down 6% y/y at 694,030 tons. Total import tonnage was down 1% y/y at 2.5 million tons.

Officials said both the Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals remain busy.

“Daily gate volumes averaged about 11,600 transactions through the month of June,” Brian Seitz, the port’s manager of analysis and planning, said during the meeting. “Even though we saw slightly higher daily averages last year, we achieved our second-highest single-day gate volume in June at just over 15,000 transactions.”

During the meeting, port officials approved the purchase of five container yard cranes from Konecranes for the Barbours Cut terminal for $16.8 million. Last year, the port ordered 26 container yard cranes from the same company that are scheduled to be delivered to Houston in the first quarter of 2024.

“These additional five cranes are for future volume growth, as well as the expanded container yard currently under construction at Barbours Cut,” Seitz said.

The commission also approved the sale of an additional $425 million in revenue bonds to help fund the $1.2 billion Project 11, which will widen and deepen the Houston Ship Channel.

“If you think about our ability to issue revenue bonds on behalf of the port without having to go through the process of getting general obligation bonds, it’s the most efficient way we can do business today,” said Ric Campo, chairman of the port commission. 

The Houston Ship Channel expansion — Project 11 — will widen the channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet. It will also deepen some segments to 46.5 feet. The project’s first 11-mile phase was completed in February and the rest is scheduled to be finished in 2025.

Campo said Project 11 will benefit both large and small vessels using the ship channel. 

“It will be a tremendous benefit for the Neo-Panamax vessels that are going to be calling our container terminals,” Campo said. “There’s benefits across the board, and I do think the smaller vessels will benefit from this as well, because you’re going to have a better flow, a much better traffic movement.”

During June, Port Houston recorded 664 ship calls, a 4% y/y decrease from the same period last year. The port also handled 292 barge calls, a 3% y/y increase.

Port of Corpus Christi sees increase in crude oil shipments 

The Port of Corpus Christi recorded a 4.7% y/y increase in crude oil shipments during June, handling 10.1 million tons compared to 9.3 million tons in 2022.

Petroleum shipments increased 4.3% y/y in June to 5 million tons. Dry bulk cargo increased 29% y/y to 988,369 tons, while liquid bulk shipments rose 2,000% y/y to 69,752 tons.

Corpus Christi’s bulk grain shipments declined 1% y/y in June to 159,841 tons, while chemical cargo volumes declined 9% y/y to 263,763 tons.

The port had 485 barge calls in June, a 9% y/y increase. Ship calls during the month totaled 200 vessels, compared to 201 ship calls in June 2022.

The Port of Corpus Christi set a new tonnage record during the second quarter driven primarily by increases in crude oil shipments, according to a news release.

The port handled 49.7 million tons during the quarter, a 7% increase compared to the same period last year. For the first six months of 2023, the port has moved 99 million tons of cargo, a 10% increase compared to the same period in 2022.

Port of New Orleans handles 104,520 breakbulk tons in June

The Port of New Orleans’ container volume totaled 44,001 TEUs June, while breakbulk tonnage was 104,520.

The port did not provide y/y monthly data.

Port officials said plastic resins, chemicals and coffee were the top containerized cargo during the month.

Top breakbulk cargo during June included steel and rubber.

The port handled 9,230 Class I rail car switches in June. The port handles switching operations for six Class I railroads: BNSF, CN, CSX, CPKC, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

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