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Ports in both Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, saw increases in November as imports of automotive parts continued to flood into the country and demand for exports of U.S. petroleum and crude oil remained strong. The Port of New Orleans saw declines in container cargo for November, but expects export demand to increase freight flows over the next several months.

Port Houston reaches 3.6 million TEUs for year in November

In November, container volume at Port Houston grew 11% year-over-year (y/y) to 348,950 twenty-foot equivalent units, compared to the same month in 2021. It was the fourth-highest month ever for containers at Port Houston’s Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals.

Container volume is up 17% year to date from January through November, totaling 3.6 million TEUs, compared to the first 11 months of 2021.

Port officials said the demand for steel imports is slowing, while auto imports are soaring.

Imports of steel declined 21% y/y in November to 315,934 tons. Steel imports are still up 52% year to date at 4.7 million tons in 2022 compared to the same period in ’21.

Auto imports were up 141% y/y in November and 14% year to date compared to 2021. 

“The long term for container growth in Houston is extremely favorable [as] retailers continue to invest in distribution centers in our region that are served through our port,” Roger Guenther, executive director at Port Houston, said in a statement. “The export of petrochemical

commodities continue to rebound as well. The impacts of the historic global supply chain demand are beginning to disappear.”

The week before the Thanksgiving holiday was the highest on record for truck transactions at the port’s container facilities, with more than 70,000, officials said.

Although volumes at Port Houston continue to be strong through November, import activity could begin to level off during the next few months as retail sales slow down, port officials said.

“November is still strong and it’s our fourth-highest month ever, but our throughput is coming down a little bit,” Chief Port Operations Officer Jeff Davis said during a Dec. 6 port authority commission meeting. “That may be an indicator of softening or it may just be a fluctuation in the month. But we’re still strong. We’re still busy.”

Davis also said the queue of container ships waiting offshore to enter the port’s facilities has dwindled to almost zero.

“Five, six weeks ago, we had about 25 ships every month on average waiting to get into our facility, [and] we got that queue down …,” Davis said. “For Saturday, we were on the verge of getting it down to zero, then we had a weather change in the [Gulf of Mexico] and the Houston Ship Channel was closed for two days.”

Ship calls for November were down 4% y/y to 655, dropping 6% from October. Barges calling Port Houston were down 18% y/y to 277 but were up 13% from October.

Port of New Orleans sees 11.8% decline in container cargo

The Port of New Orleans saw decreased container cargo volumes in November, recording an 11.8% y/y decline to 30,599 TEUs.

Port officials said vessel bunching — when ships arrive back to back or within a short time between one another — caused some recent port congestion. 

“We are seeing our weekly container services’ schedules improve and export demand is beginning to pick up,” port spokeswoman Kimberly Curth told FreightWaves. “This trend is not as reflected in our November volumes because of a lower amount of ship calls with vessel bunching in October.” 

Total breakbulk tonnage for the month was 158,995 short tons. Year to date, the port has seen a 29% increase in breakbulk cargo compared to the same period in 2021.

The port handled 11,947 Class I railcar switches in November. The port manages switching operations for six Class I railroads, including BNSF Railway, CN, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.

Port of Corpus Christi sees strong gains in exports 

The Port of Corpus Christi saw a 15% y/y increase in total cargo to 16 million tons in November, led by exports of crude oil, petroleum and chemical products. 

The port handled 10 million total tons of crude oil during the month, a 20% increase compared to the same year-ago period. Exports of crude oil for November topped 9.4 million tons, a 19% increase over last year.

Shipments of petroleum totaled 5.2 million tons during November, a 4% year-over-year increase. Exports of petroleum were at 4.09 million tons for the month, just a .02% increase.

Imports of petroleum increased 22% y/y in November to 1.1 million tons.

The Port of Corpus Christi had 608 ship calls in November, a 10% y/y increase from 2021, including 415 barges and 193 ships.

Watch: Are carriers fighting to get freight?

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