International trade through the Port of Brownsville, TX, is booming. 

Eduardo Campirano, CEO, and port director, notes that the COVID year, 2020, proved to be the most successful in Brownsville’s long cargo history. 

“We operated 24-7 and we continue to do what we did in 2020,” he said. For 2021, cargo tonnage amounted to 13.8 million tons, breaking 2020’s record of 11.6 million.

For Brownsville’s final tally in 2022, even greater numbers are anticipated, with yet more cargo tonnage expected in 2023. 

The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1994, was good for Brownsville’s trade. The subsequent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which went into effect July 1, 2020, was also a positive, Campirano said. “I don’t know if it changed our dynamics, but it hasn’t hurt.” 

He stressed Brownsville’s position upon the Gulf of Mexico at the U.S.-Mexico border was recognized centuries ago as an ideal international trade site.

Today, Brownsville is the bullseye as a trade center across the Rio Grande River, and as a global player for trade through the Panama Canal, and with Latin America and countless trans-Atlantic opportunities. 

None of these opportunities have been lost on Brownsville management leaders. 

But already, products from every continent pass through Brownsville’s Free Trade Zone Number 62.

But Campirano said most of his port’s cargo tonnage is exports, with that majority is moving cargo into Mexico, serving industrial towns such as Monterrey and San Luis Potosi.   

“Our proximity impacts south Texas, but we play a significant part in northern Mexico logistics,” he added. “Much of what we import is exported to Mexico,” with a substantial volume of those imports being shipped upstream Rio Grande land bridges, such as Pharr or Los Indios, Texas.

Campirano noted that Brownsville has long been the deepest port on the U.S. Gulf, with a 42-foot channel. To serve the largest ships now traversing Panama’s deepened canal, Brownsville is now dredging to 52-feet.

Heavy Industrial Product Moves 

Campirano said Brownsville moves more imported steel into Mexico than any other U.S. seaport. 

In 2021, the ever-growing steel sector at the port registered a record of 4.3 million tons of steel products moved. This volume, which is mostly shipped by rail, is not in finished products, but Brazilian steel slabs, and other products go to Monterrey steel mills for production of a variety of goods including automobiles and appliances. Finished products often come into the U.S. through the landport of Laredo, TX. 

For 2022, Brownsville expects to handle 4.5 million tons of steel slabs from Brazil. This climbed to a 3.0- to 3.5-percent increase over 2021. It is projected to increase again in 2023 and 2024.

Brownsville also receives imported pig iron and petcoke for shipping to Mexican and U.S. mills.  

Petroleum-based commodities represented nearly 50% of Brownsville’s total cargo moved, with 6.3 million tons. A significant contributor to this is refined oil products, such as lubricants, jet…

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