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January 6 2020

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42 The Journal of Commerce | Januar y 6 2020 Maritime 2020 ANNUAL REVIEW & OUTLOOK US GULF COAST ports are expecting solid growth in cargo volumes in 2020, especially from Asia, after the coast's double-digit volume growth easily eclipsed both the East and West Coasts in 2019. While the Port of Houston in 2020 will be focused mainly on secur- ing the funds to speed up its chan- nel-widening project so that vessels of greater than 1,100 feet — about 9,500 TEU — can pass through, the Port of New Orleans is expanding its container terminal, and Mobile is planning additional yard space and looking for federal and other funds to complete a planned $400 million dredging project. The urgency driving the projects was highlighted in the rising Gulf Coast cargo volumes, which leapt 13.2 percent to 2.72 million loaded TEU coastwide in the first nine months of 2019, according to PIERS, a sister product of The Journal of Commerce within IHS Markit. That compared to increases of just 0.8 percent on the West Coast, which is losing market share, and 3.7 percent on the East Coast during the same period. The Gulf Coast cargo growth was propelled in part by the rising volume of resin exports from the extensive — and still growing — resin manufacturing sector in the region and the rising number of Asian services coming through the coast. Asian imports through Gulf Coast ports increased 17 percent year-over-year to 579,823 loaded TEU through September, PIERS figures show. Although starting from a smaller base, the growth in Asian imports handled by Gulf Coast ports outpaced that of ports of the East Coast, which saw imports from Asia rise 6.4 percent, as well as those on the West Coast, which experienced a 1.5 percent decline. Big ship prohibition The greatest urgency for growth is felt in Houston, where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in June signed a law prohibiting vessels longer than 1,100 feet from entering the Houston channel unless 80 percent of the port's pilots said it was safe to do so. The law has had little effect on vessel movement in and out of the port so far, because ocean carriers sent few ships of greater than 9,500 TEU to Houston even before the law was signed. Even so, port officials are "laser-focused" on moving the port's channel expansion project along as fast as possible, according to Lisa Ashley, spokeswoman for the Port of Houston Authority (POHA). Rapid cargo growth at the port — especially in container cargo — has raised concerns among non- containerized cargo users of the channel regarding the disruption caused by vessels that are so big that at present only one at a time can traverse the channel. Cargo volumes through the port grew by 18.4 percent in the first nine months of 2019, to 1.85 million loaded TEU, over the same period in 2018, PIERS figures show. The main driver was Narrowing gulf Shiing Asia volumes drive US Gulf Coast port infrastructure developments By Hugh R. Morley Port of Houston officials are "laser- focused" on moving the port's channel expansion project along as fast as possible. Cargo volumes around the Gulf coast increased by 13.2 percent in 2019, and industry watchers expect more increases through 2020.

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