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Port ship traffic climbs as oil prices drop

CORPUS CHRISTI – Falling gas prices did little to discourage Eagle Ford Shale crude production, if vessel traffic at the Port of Corpus Christi is any indicator.

A total of 7,822 vessels passed through the port from January to November, compared with 6,870 ships during all of 2013, according to port records.

Harmeet Singh, a lecturer at Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s College of Business Administration, wasn’t surprised the port’s traffic hasn’t let up. Dwindling gas prices have kicked demand into a higher gear.

“Their shipping lanes are going to get busier,” Singh said. “Because South American countries and other nations are sending their crude here for refining … that’s (demand increase) going to continue.”

Port traffic for the first 11 months of 2014 also exceeded that of 2005, which recorded the highest traffic in the last decade. That year, 7,335 vessels sailed through the port. Patricia Cardenas, a spokeswoman for the port, said officials were expected to release a report Friday on vessel traffic for 2014, including December.

July was by far its busiest month for the port.

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That month, 819 vessels passed through the port, compared with 575 in July 2013 and 535 in July 2012.

July typically is a crucial month in energy because that’s when fuel demand tends to soar due to holiday travel. July 2014 also happened to be when the United States and members of OPEC began a mammoth stare down that would result in a glut of crude on the world market.

West Texas Intermediate crude sold for $45.04 Wednesday, down more than 60 percent the price it traded for five months ago. Brent crude, which also has lost more than half its value, traded for $48.09.

Singh said OPEC likely is counting on U.S. producers to continue scaling back shale operations, but that it’s not likely they will abandon the fields, not after making such heavy investment in the last three years.

“The U.S. is a major player in oil production. That wasn’t the case in the past,” Singh said. “If anyone blinks, that party is going to be the one who loses market share.”

The average price for a gallon of gas in Corpus Christi on Monday was $1.83, according to AAA, though some places sold it for as low as $1.74.

Officials for Corpus Christi’s port — the nation’s fifth largest based on tonnage — expect the trend to continue, regardless of how the market behaves.

In November, an audit projected 97.2 million in cargo — mostly petroleum, condensate and other chemicals — would sail through the port in 2014. The same report also predicted 101.6 million tons, or 4.6 percent more cargo, would pass through the port in 2015.

Operating revenue for the port is expected to reach $82.5 million in 2015, up 3.6 percent from $75.3 million projected for 2014. The port’s revenue in 2013 was $77.6 million, according to an audit.

 

This article was written by Chris Ramirez from Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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