June 4, 2023

Borderlands: Texas seaport completes $146M container terminal expansion


Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Texas seaport completes a $146 million container terminal expansion; a chemical logistics provider expands its Arizona operations; Bollore Logistics opens a supply chain facility in Mexico; and border agents seize $38 million worth of meth hidden in a kale shipment.

Texas seaport completes $146M container terminal expansion

Port Freeport has completed the expansion of its Velasco Container Terminal along the Gulf of Mexico, paving the way for it to become a regional shipping hub by accommodating larger container and tanker vessels, officials said.

The expansion included 1,600 feet of new berths, including Berth 8, which was dredged to 51 feet to allow larger ships to call the port. The project also added an 85-foot roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) cargo platform to serve shipments of vehicles and breakbulk operations.

“Port Freeport is excited to commemorate the completion of the Velasco Container Terminal expansion project and announce the new berth is ready to receive vessels,” Phyllis Saathoff, the port’s executive director and CEO, said in a news release.

“The deepening of the Freeport Harbor Channel and the addition of this berth puts the port in position to receive the larger deeper-draft vessels in service today and propel the growth of commerce for existing and future customers.”

Port Freeport is located about 60 miles south of Houston.

Port Freeport’s Velasco Container Terminal has four post-Panamax gantry cranes that are capable of serving the larger container vessels transiting the expanded Panama Canal. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

McCarthy Building Cos., which oversaw construction of the $146 million Velasco terminal expansion, said the project included demolishing a 100-year-old dock and performing 700,000 yards of dredging to clear an approach to a new wharf.

The Velasco terminal expansion also adds two more cranes for post-Panamax vessels to Port Freeport, in addition to the two already there. The post-Panamax gantry cranes are capable of serving the larger container vessels transiting the expanded Panama Canal. 

Port Freeport handled 85,630 twenty-foot equivalent units in 2022, according to their latest annual report. With the Velasco terminal expansion completed, port officials said the facility could see up to 2 million TEUs per year.

Another key part of Port Freeport’s push to accommodate larger ships is the Freeport harbor channel deepening and widening project.

On Thursday, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corp. announced it had received a $157.4 million contract from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for the project, which includes deepening the Freeport channel from a depth of 51 feet to 56 feet.

The Freeport channel is 7.5 miles long, one of the shortest channels on the Texas Gulf with direct access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, according to a news release. Work is expected to begin later this year on the channel deepening project and is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

“Great Lakes is pleased to add the above work to our backlog of capital and maintenance dredging projects,” Lasse Petterson, Great Lakes president and CEO, said in a statement. “The Freeport project is one of the first capital projects to be awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers this year, and there is a great need for this project and similar ones to continue to support the overall improvement and resiliency of our country’s environment, coastlines and infrastructure.”

Chemical logistics provider expands Arizona operations

Supply chain provider Chemical Strategies Inc. is opening a 70,000-square-foot industrial building for chemical distribution and third-party logistics near Phoenix.

The Anthem, Arizona-headquartered chemical distributor provides warehousing, transportation, third-party logistics and supply management services for the semiconductor, aerospace and defense industries.

The Phoenix Business Journal reported that Chemical Strategies’ new facility will help support the growing semiconductor industry in Arizona.

Chemical Strategies currently has about 23 employees, including six truck drivers and seven power units, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Bollore Logistics opens supply chain facility in Mexico

Bollore Logistics announced it has opened an automotive competence center in Mexico City geared toward providing logistics services to manufacturers and suppliers in the auto sector.

“The automotive industry is facing many challenges which we must respond to in order to support our customers in their development strategy, which is now increasingly shifting towards the relocation of their production,” Olivier de Clerck, Bollore’s automotive director, said in a news release. “While pursuing our business development, our aim is to industrialize our automotive logistics approach and deliver ever more agile and optimized solutions.” 

The Mexico City facility is Bollore Logistics’ second automotive competence center. The company opened its first center in Le Mans, France, in 2020. The centers offer customers services ranging from the implementation of multimodal transport solutions (air, ocean, road and rail) to the 24/7 management and monitoring of freight flows.

France-based Bollore Logistics is a global logistics provider with 73,000 employees working at 603 branch locations in 130 countries. 

Border agents seize $38M worth of meth hidden in kale shipment

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Southern California recently seized 5,788 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of kale arriving from Mexico. 

The case occurred May 28 at the Otay Mesa port of entry, just south of San Diego. CBP officers checking a tractor-trailer discovered 268 packages of methamphetamine concealed within the shipment. 

The narcotics were tested and identified as methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $38.1 million.

CBP officers turned the driver over to Homeland Security Investigations.

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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