BYLINE: Janet Nodar
Gulf ports gearing up for containers
From January through September this year, 1,364,009 20-foot containers crossed the docks of ports along the Gulf of Mexico. Despite hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Gulf Coast ports handled 1,770,852 TEUs for the entire year in 2005 from all over the globe, according to PIERS Global Intelligence Solutions, a sister company of Gulf Shipper.
Gulf ports from Florida to Texas are building or considering adding container terminals to their portfolios. There are several explanations for this willingness to build: capacity squeezed so tight that it almost squeals, a few ports still getting back on their feet after the 2005 hurricane season, a sense that shippers will shift at least some business to the Gulf from the West or East coasts if given the opportunity, and a Panama Canal slated to expand dramatically by 2014.
Booming container trade has profoundly affected Houston, the Gulf's biggest port. The Port of Houston Authority handled 73 percent of the Gulf's total container trade in the first nine months of 2006 and in all of 2005. According to PIERS, Houston handled 1.3 million TEUs in 2005 and 988,689 TEUs from January through September this year.
The Port of Houston's single existing container terminal, 30-year-old Barbours Cut, is operating at 150 percent of capacity, Jim Edmonds, port authority chairman, said in a recent "State of the Port" address. Edmonds predicted that container volumes at the Port of Houston would increase 11 percent a year for the next five years.
Houston's new Bayport terminal, under construction since 2004, is now scheduled to open on Feb. 8. Bayport's …