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May 7, 2009
Break Bulk News, from the Journal Of Commerce
A slumping economy sent Port of Houston revenue down 10 percent in the first quarter compared to the first three months of 2008, the Port Authority reported.
Movement of shipping containers dropped 12 percent for the quarter as effects of the global economic recession rippled up the Houston Ship Channel, officials said.
Another significant drop was in the export of plastic resins - created by Houston-area petrochemical plants and shipped overseas for the manufacture of plastic consumer goods. Automobile imports and exports fell 22 percent.
Revenue for the quarter was $43.2 million, compared with $48.2 million a year ago.
The port has experienced double-digit growth for the past eight years. But in November the first inklings of drastically reduced cargo volumes prompted port staffers to withdraw their first budget and submit a revised budget for 2009.
The new budget, approved by the Port Commission in February, dropped projected revenue for this year by 16 percent, from $218 million to $183 million. Last year, the port made $197 million in operating revenue.
Neils Aalund, vice president of the West Gulf Maritime Association, which represents some of the private businesses along the Ship Channel, acknowledged the recession's impact but said Houston is doing better than other U.S. ports. For example, steel exports and imports were up 13 percent this quarter at the Port Authority's docks.
Officials said that the first quarter results, while revealing a drop from a year ago, were better than expected. The port projected it would lose $776,000 this quarter but had net income of $2.7 million.