Despite the weighty impact of the coronavirus on U.S. port volumes last spring and summer, Port Houston narrowly missed a record-setting year for container traffic.

During its record 2019, Port Houston handled 2,990,175 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Thanks to a resurgence of imports that began in late summer, Port Houston moved 2,989,347 TEUs in 2020.

The container influx continued in early winter. December’s volume was up 4% year-over-year, from 253,830 TEUs in 2019 to 264,626 in 2020. 

The big jump in December came in loaded imports, up 26% year-over-year to 126,771 TEUs. That made for the second-highest month ever for loaded imports at Port Houston. Incidentally, the best month for loaded imports was just recorded in October. 

“We are proud to keep the supply chain moving and help move goods to consumers. People need the items that arrive through our docks, like medical supplies and food, as well as e-commerce goods for their home,” Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said in the volumes announcement Wednesday. 

Overall in 2020, total cargo, including containerized imports and exports and breakbulk, was down 4% from the prior year. The port attributed that dip to a decreased demand for steel pipe for the energy sector. And while grain and bulk cargoes were up, steel and autos also were down.

The port said in September it saw the “first turn toward growth” following the coronavirus-caused volume blows that began in March.

“We are optimistic that a rebound in container volumes is underway and that it will continue for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” Guenther said in October.

Port officials also are optimistic work can begin this week to widen the shipping channel by 170 feet to 700 feet along Galveston Bay and deepen upstream segments of the channel to 45 feet. They have said the shipping channel widening is necessary to accommodate increasingly bigger container ships.

Port Houston also announced this week that Ric Campo had been reappointed chairman of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority of Harris County, Texas. 

Campo was reappointed Monday in a joint session of the Harris County Commissioners Court and the Houston City Council. 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Campo “looks beyond the balance sheet to prepare for future needs, investing smartly in jobs, our environment and renewable energy. He not only led the port during our current public health crisis but as the head of Camden Properties worked with government and community leaders to extend rent relief to those affected by job losses.”

The joint bodies also appointed Capt. Reginald McKamie chairman of the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Harris County Ports.

McKamie, a Houston attorney, said in a statement that he was “looking forward to working with the pilot commissioners, the Houston Pilots Association, the U.S. Coast Guard and other stakeholders to make the ports of Harris County safe, efficient and a workplace reflective of our diverse community.”

Port Houston optimistic volume rebound underway

Port Houston: Bigger ships need wider channel

Port Houston: ‘Worst should be behind us’

Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.


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