March 30 ------ Port Houston has been absorbing a good share of the container import cargo that would ordinarily go to the major U.S. West Coast seaports, and it has generally avoided the volume declines that have hit Los Angeles and Long Beach over the past few months. Consumer demand for imported goods has come down, but Houston's container volumes remain strong - at least for now. Port Houston is the dominant container port on the Gulf Coast and ranks 7th nationally by volume. It has solidified its position as labor talks continue to drag on West Coast import hubs: in February, Houston handled 310,000 TEU worth of containers, up 15 percent compared to the same month last year. At Long Beach, TEU volume dropped 31 percent over the same period, and Los Angeles' volumes plummeted by 43 percent.
Part of Houston's sustained success in the face of a declining import trade lies in the strength of its export business. Full export TEU volume in Houston rose by 42 percent this month, driven by strong sales of plastic nurdles and other petrochemical commodities produced locally by Houston's petchem industry. Total tonnage rose seven percent, when including breakbulk and general cargo.
However, the port's administrators expect overall quayside activity to soften in the months to come as the import downturn sets in. “Whether a time of volume surge or decline, at Port Houston we continue to focus on providing excellent customer service, fluidity, and reliability to the growing number of shippers that choose Port Houston. Since the beginning of this year, vessel queues have disappeared and turn times are quick and fluid for our trucking community,” said Roger Guenther, Executive Director at Port Houston. “We also continue to press forward with accelerated investments, both landside and waterside, as we prepare for future growth.”