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Borderlands: Port of Corpus Christi finishes 2022 with new tonnage record

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of U.S.-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: The Port of Corpus Christi finishes 2022 with a new tonnage record; Emergent Cold Latin America acquires Mexico-based Qualianz; J&J Snack Foods is opening a major logistics hub in Dallas; and CBP seizes more than $5 million worth of meth hidden in a shipment of radishes. 

Port of Corpus Christi finishes 2022 with new tonnage record

The Port of Corpus Christi reported record tonnage in its 2022 fiscal year amid rising global demand in the energy and chemicals sectors.

The South Texas port saw a 21% year-over-year (y/y) increase in tonnage of refined products and a 15% y/y increase in tonnage of crude oil, achieving a new annual record of 187.9 million tons — a 12% y/y increase compared to 2021 volumes.

Sean Strawbridge, the port’s CEO, attributed the banner year to several factors, including Corpus Christi’s location, the strength of the Texas oil and natural gas and chemical industries and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.

“It’s been an interesting last three years, with the multitude of black swan events that the world has experienced, the pandemic, then the associated demand destruction in the energy space and the proliferation of American energy production, which much of that incremental production has gone for export,” Strawbridge told FreightWaves. “Then this year was the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions that have been placed on Russian energy.”

Strawbridge said the Russia-Ukraine war has helped shift the world’s perspective on the U.S. as a global energy supplier, making Western European countries, as well as Japan, South Korea and other nations, looking to America to fill the void. 

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Port of Corpus Christi’s exports were a 40%-40% split between Asia and Europe, with the remaining 20% going to the Americas. Since then, the port exports about 65% of its oil and refined products to Europe, about 20% to 25% to Asia, with exports to Latin America remaining in the 15% to 20% range.

“I think that the geopolitical tectonic shift in the energy space is proving that the United States and our prominence on the global stage and provisioning our allies and our trading partners with energy continues to grow in its importance, not only economically, but certainly from a national security and foreign policy perspective,” Strawbridge said. “As the most prolific gateway of U.S. energy exports, [the Port of Corpus Christi] certainly has positioned ourselves to be beneficiaries of that geopolitical shift that we’re seeing today.”

The port averaged a record 2 million barrels of crude oil export volumes per day in 2022, a 14% y/y increase compared to 2021. Petrochemicals exports increased 23% y/y in 2022, reaching 3 million tons for the year.

Liquified natural gas exports have doubled at the port since 2020 and increased 3.5% y/y in 2022 versus 2021. 

In December, the port also achieved an all-time high for crude oil exports, exceeding 70 million barrels in a month for the first time in its history.

The Port of Corpus Christi has been in operation since 1926 and is the nation’s largest energy export gateway and one of the largest seaports in total waterway tonnage. Corpus Christi is located on the Gulf of Mexico, about 130 miles southeast of San Antonio.

The port boasts access to three Class I railroads — BNSF, Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific — and a location adjacent to several major Texas highways.

The Corpus Christi ship channel is also undergoing an improvement project that is scheduled to be completed in 2024. The project will increase the depth of the ship channel from 47 to 54 feet and widen it to 530 feet. An additional 400 feet of barge shelves will be built to allow two-way traffic of vessels and barges.

Strawbridge said despite some mixed signals globally, he sees demand for U.S. energy exports only increasing worldwide in 2023.

“We certainly see some mixed signals in the global economy,” Strawbridge said. “My personal opinion is that at least half of the global economies are in a recession already today. But then we see the federal jobs report [on Feb. 3], which kind of blew everybody out of the water. Then we saw the Federal Reserve adjust interest rates by 25 basis points. So they’re starting to slow. Hopefully that’s an indication that most of the inflationary pressures that we’ve seen are behind us.”

The Port of Corpus Christi has been in operation since 1926 and is the nation’s largest energy export gateway and one of the largest seaports in total waterway tonnage. (Photo: Port of Corpus Christi)

Emergent Cold Latin America acquires Mexico-based Qualianz

Miami-based Emergent Cold Latin America recently acquired Qualianz, a storage and logistics platform with operations across Mexico.

Qualianz operates a network of 33 cold and dry storage facilities in key markets such as Mexico City, Monterrey, Queretaro and Tijuana. The acquisition includes more than 194,000 pallet positions (102,000 cold and 92,000 dry), 60 million cubic feet of capacity and 800 employees. 

The Qualianz management team will join Emergent Cold and lead its Mexico operations and investment activities. Qualianz is based in Ciudad Apodaca, near Monterrey.

“Adding Qualianz to our growing network is a big step forward in our vision to become the most dynamic temperature-controlled logistics partner in Latin America,” Neal Rider, CEO of Emergent Cold Latin America, said in a news release.

The transaction represents Emergent Cold’s second recent investment in Mexico. In September, the company acquired Bajo Cero Frigorificos, located in central Mexico with three facilities and 37,000 pallet positions.

Emergent Cold currently operates 60 cold storage facilities across North and South America. The company also operates more than 500 trucks and has five facilities under construction.

J&J Snack Foods to open major logistics hub in Dallas

J&J Snack Foods Corp. will open a regional distribution center near Dallas in June, CEO Dan Fachner said on a call with investors last month.

The distribution center in Dallas, one of three new regional hubs the company plans to open, will allow J&J Snack Foods to more efficiently source its inventory and simplify its warehouse network by cutting down that network from more than 30 locations to about six, Fachner said.

The company has not disclosed the locations of the other two distribution centers.

“We have committed investments to add seven new production lines that will add capacity and drive efficiency through better automation,” Fachner said. “Strategically, we are transforming the business, investing in our brands and capacity to grow while implementing initiatives to help us operate more efficiently.”

Headquartered in Pennsauken, New Jersey, J&J Snack Foods has more than 175 facilities for manufacturing, warehousing and distributing across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

CBP seizes over $5M in meth hidden in shipment of radishes 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry in Calexico, California, said they recently seized 4,563 pounds of methamphetamine from a tractor-trailer arriving from Mexico.

US Customs and Border protection recently seized 1,590 packages of methamphetamine in a shipment of radishes in Calexico, California. (Photo: CBP)

The case occurred Jan. 31, when CBP officers discovered a total of 1,590 packages identified as methamphetamine concealed within a shipment of radishes. The methamphetamine has an estimated street value of $5.47 million.

The driver was detained and the case was turned over to the Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

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