Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to increase capacity for exporting chilled and frozen agricultural commodities at the Port of Houston in Houston, Texas, to help improve service for shippers of U.S. grown agricultural commodities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with the Port of Houston to lease additional chassis, used to position and store containers while waiting for vessels to arrive, enabling the port to fully utilize its capacity for refrigerated shipping (“reefer”) containers. The USDA is taking action to increase capacity for U.S. agricultural exports and ensure delays or insufficient capacity do not restrict exports. The Port of Houston is the public port handling more than two-thirds of the Gulf of Mexico’s container cargoes–the sixth busiest container gateway in the United States.
In addition, the USDA announced an expansion of its existing partnership with the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) to enhance access to a 16-acre “pop up” site to accept either dry agricultural or refrigerated containers for temporary storage at NWSA in Tacoma to reduce operational hurdles and costs, so they can more quickly be loaded on ships at the export terminals. This announcement builds on the existing partnership with the NWSA at the Port of Seattle announced on March 18, 2022. The NWSA includes the marine cargo operations of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma and is the fourth-largest container gateway in the United States.