Handling export documentation for our resin customers has allowed me to fully understand the ports that are predominantly used for this type of commodity.
The Port of Houston is the primary location for resin exports on the East Coast, followed by the Port of New Orleans, the Port of Charleston, and the Port of Savannah. For example, data collected from PIERS estimated that Houston handled 42 percent of U.S. resin exports, New Orleans managed 19 percent, Charleston directed 7.3 percent and Savannah handled 4.1 percent. The data collected confirms that Houston is handling almost an astonishing half of the resin industry’s U.S. exports.
Houston is the leader in resin exports, due to several factors.
These factors include having the largest facility in the U.S. for raw plastic resin exports, its number of ports of entry that facilitate the movement of its cargo, and naturally, it being the largest container terminal complex on the Gulf Coast, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, any port regardless of the size or location that manages the amount of cargo that Houston does will run into several challenges. Some of the challenges that have come up within the last year that we have noticed with our customers at MTS Logistics have been warehouse capacity issues, timing constraints, equipment shortages, and weather complications, causing operation closures that ultimately created numerous vessel delays. On March 18th, CNBC reported on a massive petrochemical fire that set ablaze at a fuel storage company along the Houston Ship Channel. The fire was responsible for terminal closures and delays for several days.
Opportunities arise when challenges become more apparent and the Port of Savannah is seizing this moment to reveal their strategy that will increase the number of resin exports they handle.
The plan was set in motion back in 2017, when the dry bulk trucking services company A&R Logistics collaborated with the Georgia Ports Authority to start a supply chain to export plastic resins out of the Port of Savannah, according to Transport Topics. On March 23rd, JOC reported that Plastic Express announced plans to invest $172 million by opening two plants in Georgia that will package resin commodity. In addition, the goal is to export approximately 25,000 containers out of the Port of Savannah in 2020. The Port of Savannah has a lot of room for growth, and now, it has the strategic funding and support in place to welcome that growth.
The strategy behind Savannah’s goal was a direct response from the industry to create an alternative solution or option for the challenges faced at the Port of Houston.
Russ Boullion, Vice President for A&R Logistics, explained the reasoning to JOC by stating, “It became evident to us that Houston’s system — a combination of the port, ocean carriers, container availability, railroads, trucking, roads, warehousing capacity — would not be able to support the influx of business to the tune of 50 percent more production for exports. So, we looked for a place to export this product relatively fast, relatively inexpensive, and reliably.”
It is possible that this solution could benefit the industry by alleviating some of the stress on the Port of Houston and allowing shippers to have more options to export resin commodity.