Port Freeport expands to accommodate booming ro-ro business

Breakbulk cargo tonnage at Port Freeport, Texas, was up by more than one-third in the first half of 2020, thanks to a jump in roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) business and to project cargo flowing through a heavy-lift terminal operated by engineered transport provider Mammoet.

Five ro-ro carriers — Hoegh, ACL Grimaldi, Glovis, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, and Saullum — now call the port for vehicles and high and heavy cargo, Phyllis Saathof, executive director and CEO of Port Freeport, told JOC.com. When Hoegh began calling in 2014, the port “started with three or four calls [a month]; now we can see up to 14 a month, depending on how they fall,” she said.

New car exports are mostly bound for the Middle East, while new imports arrive primarily from South Korea and India, Saathof said. Used cars go to West Africa, and high and heavy mining equipment is sent to India and Australia. “We handle Caterpillar products, and also Kobelco and Tedano [rolling stock] from Japan,” she said.

To support its ro-ro growth, the port in August opened 20 newly paved acres for handling additional original equipment manufacturer (OEM) business for Horizon Auto Logistics, the ro-ro terminal manager, Saathof said.

The port also sees modules and other types of project cargo at its Mammoet terminal. “They handle a lot of the pieces going into the industrial expansion segment,” Saathof said, adding that more than $30 billion has been invested in plant expansions in Brazoria County, where the port is located. “A lot of that moves through Freeport,” she said. Typical breakbulk and project cargo carriers calling at Freeport include BBC Chartering, Chipolbrok, Spliethoff, and Jumbo, she said.

Freeport, located about an hour and a half south of Houston on the US Gulf, handled 161,890 US tons (146,864 mt) of project cargo and ro-ro tonnage during the first half, a 35 percent jump from the same 2019 period, when the port handled 119,956 US tons (108,822 mt). In H1 2018, the port saw combined tonnage of 133,994 US tons (121,557 mt).

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