Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, on a visit to Port Houston, celebrated his country’s expansion of the Panama Canal and its effect on the biggest port along the Texas Gulf Coast.

“Four out of every 10 ships arriving at Port Houston transit through the [canal],” Cohen tweeted Thursday, the day of his visit. “The expansion of the Panama Canal created great commercial opportunities and increased exports from our country to Texas.”

Port Houston officials said the canal’s expansion was a game-changer for the port.

In 2020, Houston was ranked the No. 1 port in the United States for total tonnage. Import containers from East Asia have grown 63%, and export containers have increased 96% since the Panama Canal’s expansion in 2016.

A new direct Trans-Pacific Asia service launched last year by THE Alliance called the “EC6” is an East Coast all water service via the Panama Canal calling on Port Houston. (Photo: Port Houston)

“Unquestionably, the expansion of the Panama Canal has had a significant role in the growth of cargo volume and the number of larger ships and vessels calling our port,” Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, said during the event.

Port Houston’s total trade was $14.19 billion in May, an increase of 66% from the same month last year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by WorldCity.  

Port Houston ranked No. 6 among U.S. gateways in May, and it was the third-ranked seaport in the country behind the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Newark.

Port Houston’s top three exports in May were gasoline and other fuels ($6 billion), liquefied natural gas and petroleum gases ($4.9 billion), and oil ($4.1 billion).

Its top three imports were gasoline and other fuels ($2.5 billion), oil ($2 billion), and passenger vehicles ($1.2 billion).

Port Houston’s top 5 trading partners in May were Mexico ($1.3 billion), China ($1.27 billion), Brazil ($810 million), Germany ($755 million) and South Korea ($720 million).

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

More articles by Noi Mahoney

Port Houston posts 39% year-over-year container growth

Mexico trade boomed in May, but profit margins tightening

Exports of commercial vehicles from Mexico jump 277%