Port Watch – Hot Dogs and Ice Cream

Tom Marian
Buffalo Marine Service, Inc.

July in Texas marks vacations, triple-digit heat and toiling air conditioning units. Yet, nationwide it heralds the month of the hot dog and a celebration of all things ice cream. Yes, indeed, the namesake of the month of July – Julius Caesar – would not be too surprised to see the citizens of today’s global power cheering on participants at the annual hot-dog eating contests or queuing up for an extra scoop of extra ice cream. After all, better to be occupied during the blazing days of summer than become restless and overheated; such distractions are a bit of a salve during the languid summer months. Thus, July in Texas also marks a decrease in activity on the waterfront – for the most part.

Overall, Texas welcomed 1.4% fewer vessels onto its various maritime on-ramps; however, cumulatively, it remains 1% ahead of last year’s pace. This remains so for the majority of Texas ports. That is, they were off for the month but continue to outpace 2018’s arrival numbers.

The Port of Brownsville had a particularly rough go of it in July as evidenced by a 18% drop. This compounded its trade woes for the year since the port remains 13% behind 2018’s arrival figures. Galveston’s monthly arrival picture was slightly less worse than Brownsville with a 16.5% fall. Nevertheless, Galveston is far from relinquishing its top spot as the highest percentage gainer out of all the state’s ports. Thanks to beefed-up cruise and import business lines, it is nearly 24% ahead of last year’s pace.

Just around the corner, Port Freeport continues to retain its runner-up status in the year-over-year comparison arena. While its latest monthly wane of over 6% ended back-to-back arrival gains, Freeport has seen 9% more arrivals on a year-to-date basis. The Port of Texas City continues to lag its medium-sized sister ports in the year-over-year contest with an anemic 4% fewer arrivals after posting a sizeable 13.5% loss in July. Nearly every chemical terminal in this port recorded double-digit percentage falls over the last month.

The port of Sabine was the only major port that suffered a monthly decline in July to the tune of 5.4%. Nevertheless, it also leads those ports that routinely handle well over 100 vessels a month with a 7.4% year-to-date improvement. Bulk carriers, LPG vessels and chemical tankers have chalked up respectable gains over the last year and continue to drive this port’s growth trajectory. The Port of Corpus Christi is also ahead of last year’s pace; albeit by a mere 1.6%. More positively, a 3% monthly gain in the middle of summer is nothing to be ashamed of. Undoubtedly, Corpus Christi’s port is doing all it can to attract additional business to its expanding waterfront.

The port of Houston topped all ports in the month-over-month percentage department with a respectable 4.4% uptick. Unfortunately, it lags last year’s arrival totals by nearly 3%. With seven months of 2019 under its belt, Houston has seen an appreciable drop in tanker arrivals despite the most recent monthly jump of over 14%. Year-over-year, general cargo arrivals are also languishing by almost 5% even after accounting for July’s 8% rise. Bulkers experienced the most precipitous monthly loss amongst the various vessel categories; however, things are far rosier when placed alongside 2018’s arrival count as this category is up over 6%. On the alliterative front, car carriers are trailing last year’s haul; containers continue to impress with another record TEU year in the offing; and chemicals tankers continue to dominate the regional waterfront with 11% more hailing’s in the last month resulting in nearly 4% more arrivals year-to-date.

Ultimately, the port of Houston needs to pick up 136 more arrivals in the remaining five months of the year if it hopes to match 2018’s count. This is not an insurmountable number but, given the trade turmoil beyond the horizon, this may be a bit more challenging feat than in previous years. Then again, who’s really paying attention to what is beyond the hot dog stand and ice cream parlor? After all, it’s summer and we all need a distraction to endure these long, hot dog days.

  • Date September 5, 2019
  • Tags 2019 August