Port of Houston, Texas-Water Gateway

Port of Houston, Texas-Water Gateway

The maritime Port of Houston was the nation's third busiest freight gateway for waterborne international trade by value of shipments in 2008. It ranked fourth among all land, water, and air gateways, handling $148 billion of international freight. This amount of trade represented about 9 percent of the value of U.S. international waterborne freight shipments, accounting for 15 percent of U.S. waterborne exports and 7 percent of imports (table 1).

By weight, the facility ranked first among all U.S. water gateways in 2008. The port handled 150 million tons of freight, or 10 percent of all U.S. international waterborne tonnage (table 1). Houston primarily handles noncontainerized bulk products. Unlike specialized products transported via containers, this freight typically consists of heavy, high-volume products, such as oil, ore, and grain.

Inbound shipments accounted for 62 percent (93 million tons) of the 150 million tons shipped through the Port of Houston. These waterborne imports were valued at $79 billion, or about $847 per ton. Exports accounted for 38 percent of tonnage and were valued at $69 billion, or about $1,200 per ton. These figures highlight the higher value per ton of exported merchandise in relation to imported merchandise at this port. Houston handled 1.4 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2008 (table 1).

In 2007, Mexico was Houston's top trading partner for inbound and outbound shipments, accounting for 29 million short tons, followed by Venezuela and Algeria (table 2).1 The Port of Cayo Arcas, Mexico was the top origin point for imports, and the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands was the major destination for exports, followed by Tuxpan, Mexico (table 3). More than 6,190 vessel calls were made to the Port of Houston in 2007. Of these, 61 percent were tankers and 13 percent were containerships (table 4).

In 2007, the major commodities imported and exported by tonnage through the Port of Houston included petroleum and petroleum products, organic chemicals, iron and steel, natural stone, and cereal and cereal products. The major commodities imported and exported by value through this gateway included petroleum and petroleum products, machinery, organic chemicals, iron and steel, and plastics.2

1 Data for 2008 are not available for weight and vessels calls. Data in tables 2, 3, and 4 are from 2007.

2 Port of Houston Authority website, www.portofhouston.com/busdev/tradedevelopment/tradestatistics.html as of Aug. 3, 2009.