Port Houston ended the year on a high note with container twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) up 11% for the month as compared to last December. In addition, December 2023 was the biggest December on record for loaded exports, which were also up 11%, totaling 119,970 TEUs. Loaded imports increased 11% for the month compared to the previous December, with the Port handling 150,648 TEUs.
For the full year 2023, cargo volumes handled at Port Houston’s two container terminals were down just 4% compared to the Port’s record-shattering performance in 2022, with a total of 3,824,600 TEUs handled in 2023. This small decrease is mostly attributed to a large drop in empty repositioning volumes. Houston remained insulated against any major decrease in volumes by its strong exports, which thrived in 2023 and were driven largely by the demand for resin.
“At Port Houston, 2023 was another remarkable year and we were pleased to end the year so strong,” said Roger Guenther, Executive Director at Port Houston. “As we begin 2024 our eye is on making continued strategic investments to facilitate larger vessels and more of our region’s cargo. We are adding important landside capacity at our two container terminals and making good progress on the Houston Ship Channel Expansion, which is known as Project 11.”
Expansion of the Houston Ship Channel to Bayport Container Terminal is expected to be complete later this year, with the portion to Barbours Cut Container Terminal to follow in 2026. In December, seven new hybrid-electric rubber tire gantry (RTG) cranes were added to the Port’s existing fleet of 116 RTGs at its container terminals. Port Houston is scheduled to receive an additional 19 RTGs and 3 ship-to-shore (STS) cranes in 2024. The new equipment will help facilitate cargo movement for the more than 20 weekly services that currently call Port Houston. In addition, a new weekly service, ZIM Gulf Toucan, is starting later this month and is scheduled to call the Barbours Cut Container Terminal.
At Port Houston's multipurpose facilities, 2023 saw a decline of 23% in general cargo and 14% in steel volumes as compared to 2022. Steel is expected to remain stable throughout 2024 due to ongoing infrastructure and energy investments. Auto import units remained steady for most of the year, ending 2023 at an increase of 59% as compared to last year. Total tonnage at all of Port Houston’s terminals declined 4% in 2023, reaching 50,323,264 tons.