Photo: Port of Houston Texas (Wikipedia)

As residents of Houston Texas, we have a lot to be proud of.  Not only do we enjoy a commercially vibrant city, but we benefit from the freight traffic at Port of Houston.   How busy is Port of Houston? The 2019 statistics are in, and our local port owned 45% of all market share by tonnage, in the State of Texas.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Out of all the American commercial ports adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, Port of Houston is the leader in container traffic.  More than 69% of all container traffic flows through Houston, support Texas manufacturers, retailers and distributors, and as an essential gateway for freight to surrounding states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

Port of Houston has a tremendous impact on the Texas economy. Port of Houston has 29 official ports of entry for global trade.  Annually, Port of Houston contributes more than $700 billion to our state economy.

If you live locally, you are probably used to seeing the massive number of commercial trucks traveling to and from Port Houston.  But have you ever wondered what kind of products and materials are shipped by containers from the pier by truck, and to trains by transmodal services?

In this article, we would like to share some information about the industries in Texas and surrounding states, that rely on Port of Houston containers and logistics services from Canal Cartage Company.

Where Does Port of Houston Container Freight Come From?

Would it surprise you to learn that the majority of container traffic and freight that is imported through Port of Houston arrives from China?  Asian Pacific countries account for 43% of all imports to Texas.

Container freight also originates from the following countries:

  • Northern Europe (20%)
  • Americas (14%)
  • Mediterranean (10%)
  • Indian Subcontinents (7%)
  • Africa and the Middle East (5%)
  • All other countries (1%)

From 2016 to 2019, Port of Houston Texas has seen a sharp increase in the number of full container imports and empty container returns.  In 2019, Port of Houston Texas handled 3 million containers over the twelve-month period alone.

Categories of Freight Imported and Exported Through Port of Houston Texas

Containers are not the only type of freight that is moved from vessel to truck, in Houston Texas.  There are five general categories of freight that requires drayage services, transmodal delivery and crossdocking and warehouse consolidation services.

  • Liquid bulk freight accounts for 69% of all imports and exports.
  • Containerized freight volume is 17%.
  • Dry bulk goods account for 5% of freight.
  • General cargo classed goods represent 5% of freight volume.
  • Project cargo goods account for 4% of freight.

Unless you are employed within the logistics industry, you may not know what kind of products or goods are classified under each category.  So, lets take a closer look at each one, and the industries that are supported by those goods and raw materials.

Liquid Bulk

The top liquid bulk product that is exported from Texas through the Port of Houston, is of course oil and gas. Both Houston and Galveston are a net exporter of gas and oil products.  In April 2018, crude oil exports from Houston and Galveston actually surpassed crude oil imports by 470,000 barrels per day b/d.

Other types of liquid bulk imported or exported through Port of Houston include:

  • Palm oil
  • Ethanol
  • Kerosene
  • Juices
  • Milk
  • Wine

Canal Cartage Company does not provide liquid bulk drayage services.  However, we do provide container services for palletized goods for barreled liquid materials, including hazardous materials, with HME licensed drivers.

Containerized Freight

The standard ISO shipping containers come in two standard widths, which are 8’ or 8.5 feet. Containers can be 20 feet long, or 40 feet long.  There are also specialty shipping containers called high cubes, which are 9.5 feet high.

There are two types of containerized freight that Canal Cartage Company can assist our commercial customers with: LCL (less than container load) and FCL (full container load) shipments.  The palletized goods are non-perishable and packed in boxes and secured on to pallets.  

When less than a container load drayage services are requested, our team at Canal Cartage in Houston can help commercial businesses with secure warehouse consolidation.  We can hold your palletized goods, receive additional cargo from Port Houston or through crossdocking services with other inbound carriers, to consolidate your freight into a full container.  This provides a more economical option for interstate delivery.

Dry Bulk Goods

When you hear the term ‘dry bulk goods’ referenced as cargo, think about the ingredients for the most part, that are required for the production of food.  Some examples of dry bulk cargo are sugar and cocoa for the food manufacturing sector.  Other types of dry bulk goods are grains (for human food products or animal feed). 

Some of the most common types of dry bulk goods include:

  • Coal and other minerals like iron
  • Scrap metal for recycling and fabrication
  • Fertilizers
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Sulphur
  • Cement

For most container traffic that pertains to dry bulk, the materials are dropped or poured into the bulk carrier section of an ocean vessel.  When it arrives at the port of destination, it is transferred by pouring the content into a container for transportation. 

Given the volume of the dry bulk (usually multiple containers in one order) the most effective way to transport the goods is by train (transmodal). The common denominator for all dry bulk goods is that they are prone to damage from moisture, so they must be kept dry at all times.

General Cargo

General cargo does not fall under any of the other categories, and typically represents LCL (less than container load shipping).  The drayage service involves pick up of a partial load of palletized goods for delivery to the commercial customer, or warehouse consolidation services. 

General cargo typically contains retail goods such as clothing, toys, e-commerce products imported from China (and delivered to fulfillment centers). It can also be picked up by Canal Cartage from the Port of Houston and consolidated at our warehouse for pick up by retail fleet service (as is the case for large retailers

Project Cargo

Project cargo is not a specialty service that we provide at Canal Cartage Company.  However, the transportation of large and high-value commercial or industrial equipment does account for some of the specialty freight through Port of Houston, Texas.

Loading and unloading large pieces of equipment, or for instance, sections of manufactured wind turbine blades and similar cargo takes special care and utilized cranes, and sometimes transmodal services to deliver to the commercial business. 

Because of the size and weight of project cargo, there are logistics providers who specialize in drayage and crossdocking services for the oversize freight.  The larger the project cargo item(s) the more complex and painstaking the process is to ensure safe delivery of the item or pieces.

Every year, millions of containers travel through Port of Houston Texas, which supports businesses in our city, our state and surrounding states.  Since 1983, Canal Cartage Company has been a trusted provider of drayage services.   Contact our team today, to get a competitive rate, or to schedule a tour of our 272,000 square foot secure warehouse, in La Porte Texas.  We’re ready to help your business grow. 

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