Houston's Export Levels Grow as Port Rises in U.S. Rankings

Port Houston
Houston rose to 5th in the U.S. rankings based on the strength of its 2022 volumes

Published May 16, 2023 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Houston, Texas continues to outpace the industry showing strong volumes than many other U.S. ports due in part to trade growth and investments as well as carriers and shippers rerouting volumes to avoid congestion and potential problems at the U.S. West Coast ports. Houston continues to report solid volumes int0 2023 after last year which propelled the port up the rankings to be recognized as the fifth-largest U.S. container port

“Our import and export volume reached record numbers in 2022 and is considered one of the fastest growing ports in the U.S. in loaded imports and loaded exports,” said Port Houston Chairman Ric Campo. “Houston now owns a 7 percent market share of the total U.S. container business,” said Campo. 

Port Houston ranked fifth in loaded imports and third in loaded export containers for 2022, according to data from, the Journal of Commerce. Last year, transpacific was the top trade lane for loaded imports growing 25.7 percent for Houston. Transatlantic was the top trade lane for loaded exports, increasing by 20.5 percent for Houston.

Container activity showed a three percent increase during the first quarter of 2023 at Port Houston and remained up despite a 10 percent decline in loaded boxes during April. Port executives also highlighted that Houston’s loaded box volume reached 1,026,260 TEU as of April, the earliest point in the year for the port to exceed the one million mark.

Unlike many U.S. ports, Houston’s loaded container exports continue to outpace historic 2022 volumes. The executive said the volume is up 17 percent year-to-date versus 2022 due in large part to the demand for resin exports.

Steel also continued to be the primary driver of tonnage growth at Port Houston’s facilities in April. Steel imports were up 17 percent last month, reaching 442,037 tons, and reversing a first quarter decline of two percent. Total tonnage through all Port Houston facilities is up 1% through April.

Port executives point to ongoing investments in the operations. Recently, 16 new yard mules were introduced to move containers. Three new neo-Panamax STS cranes are also due to arrive at the port while in the third quarter, Bayport Container Terminal is expected to open its new Wharf 6.

“As cargo continues to flow according to the path of least resistance, we must continue investing in our growth to remain competitive in response to the news,” port chairman Campo said in response to the report of the port’s rising in the rankings.

While the trend in many ports has shown declines in 2023, port executives said that they believe Houston’s cargo activity appears to be normalizing locally. They highlighted that Port Houston has returned to a balance of imports (51 percent) and exports (49 percent) during April.