The Port of Houston, on the Gulf of Mexico, which already enjoys direct access to the burgeoning Latin American market, is also becoming an increasingly attractive option for shipping lines operating on the Asia-US East Coast all-water route, according to Exim News Service.
At present, Asian cargo represents Houston’s fastest growth market, and with the current expansion of the Panama Canal expected to be completed by 2014, the port is expected to be in an advantageous position to pick up more cargo from the region going forward.
The expansion of the canal will also enable larger vessels to call at Houston, which will not only be attractive for shipping lines hoping to achieve economies of scale, but will garner cost savings for shippers as well.
Houston presents shippers with more than just flow-on benefits from the shipping lines. The port’s proximity to a large portion of the US population is also making it an attractive option for retailers looking to establish distribution centres in the region to serve not only the state of Texas, but the wider US Midwest as well, of which there is a population of roughly 100 million people—a third of the US population.
In recent years, the Port of Houston has fared comparatively well, in contrast to some of the East and West Coasts ports that have recorded double-digit contractions during the worst years of 2009 and 2011.
The Port of Houston has launched a "Gulf Coast Advantage" programme which is aimed at offering shipping lines operating on the Asia route a full shipload to the Gulf, while enabling them to leave with a full load and not having to venture further up to the East Coast.