Ports & FTZs: The Value of Entry

Whether going on a business trip, exporting cars or utilizing the benefits of an FTZ, you’ll experience firsthand how the U.S. Customs and Border Protection entity lives up to its mission of “enabling legitimate trade and travel.”

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2018 Issue

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provides security and facilitation operations at 328 ports of entry throughout the country, enforcing U.S. laws and regulations with more than 60,000 employees. The CBP combines customs, immigration, border security and agricultural protection, ensuring all proper revenues are collected for the millions of containers that arrive by land, air and sea ports and making sure the contents do not pose a risk to the American people.

Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ)
(Photo: Georgia Ports Authority / Stephen B. Morton)

According to the CBP Trade and Travel Fiscal Year 2017 Report by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP officers processed more than 397.2 million travelers at ports of entry in fiscal year 2017. In addition, CBP processed $2.39 trillion in imports, equating to 33.2 million entries and more than 28.5 million imported cargo containers.

Located in or near a CBP port of entry, a Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) is the U.S. version of what is known internationally as a free-trade zone. CBP is responsible for the transfer of merchandise into and out of FTZs. According to the latest annual report of the U.S. Foreign Trade Zones Board to Congress for 2016, which was released in November 2017, the FTZ program remains a significant contributor to the U.S. economy in terms of employment and the size and value of trade (both exports and imports). In 2016, more than 420,000 Americans were employed in some capacity in U.S. zones. The value of goods exported directly from these FTZs to foreign countries totaled nearly $76 billion (5.2 percent of total U.S. merchandise exports) and the value of shipments into FTZs totaled $610 billion.

“Companies in many key American industries gain significant global competitive advantage by locating their production and distribution operations in U.S.-based FTZs, thereby boosting U.S. exports, manufacturing, investment, jobs and a higher standard of living,” said Erik Autor, President of the National Assoc. of FTZs.


As the nation’s largest single-terminal operation, the Port of Savannah’s 1,200-acre footprint eliminates the need to move between smaller terminals, delivers greater flexibility in staging cargo and provides nine containership berths.

To better accommodate the larger vessels now calling on Savannah, the Georgia Ports Authority commissioned four new Neo-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes this year at Garden City Terminal, bringing its fleet to 30—the most of any single terminal in North America. Six additional cranes arrive in 2020. The upgrade will allow GPA to move nearly 1,300 containers per hour.

Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ)
On-terminal rail at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal expedites handling for intermodal cargo. (Photo: Georgia Ports Authority / Stephen B. Morton)

In April 2017, major global shipping companies realigned into three alliances. All of the constituent shipping lines from the alliances call on the Port of Savannah. Garden City Terminal now hosts 37 weekly services, the most on the U.S. East Coast (NY/NJ, 36; Norfolk, 29; Charleston, 27).

RAIL CONNECTIONS: Featuring two on-terminal rail yards, the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal is the region’s busiest intermodal gateway, handling 38 trains per week of import and export cargo.

Savannah’s location 100 miles closer to Atlanta than any other port makes the terminal the perfect partner for the longtime rail-hub of Atlanta.

When the Port of Savannah’s new Mason Mega Rail facility begins to come online in the fall of 2019, it will be the largest on-port rail terminal in North America—doubling Savannah’s previous rail lift capacity. The result will be a new supply chain option directly to America’s Midwest.

The Mason Mega Rail, designed to efficiently handle 10,000-foot unit trains for both major rail carriers, will have 18 working tracks, a lift capacity of 1 million containers per year and nearly 180,000 feet of track.

Shippers in markets from Memphis to St. Louis and Chicago to Cincinnati will experience greater efficiencies and reduced transit times to and from Savannah’s growing intermodal hub. In many instances, cargo will avoid rail hub layovers, saving 24 hours, and in turn open new markets and opportunities for shippers.

Just as GPA is extending its reach into the Midwest, the Authority also is expanding service to the Southeast.

On August 22, the Appalachian Regional Port (ARP) opened for business. For target markets in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, the ARP provides an alternative to all-truck transit to and from the Port of Savannah. The facility will streamline supply chains and speed up container returns, as boxes are sourced closer to the customer.

The ARP also will offer superior flexibility. Where typical rail operations offer only 48 hours of free time after a container’s arrival, the ARP will provide an extended five days for loaded containers and 10 days for empties. This not only helps production and transportation scheduling for importers, it also means better access to empty containers for the region’s exporters.

Providing import and export intermodal service, the inland rail yard’s location in Murray County, GA, features immediate chassis availability and easy access to Interstate 75 and U.S. 411.

The terminal will handle up to 50,000 containers per year—with each round-trip move offsetting 710 truck miles on Georgia highways.

REFRIGERATED CARGO: The Port of Savannah provides the most extensive refrigerated cargo infrastructure on the U.S. East Coast, with the capacity to handle more than 3,000 refrigerated containers at a time. This has helped Savannah become the Southeast’s busiest terminal for chilled cargo.

Handling 40 percent of all frozen poultry that leaves the United States, the Port of Savannah is the nation’s largest exporter in this category.

Savannah now also handles chilled produce from South America. Landing product closer to the Southeast U.S. consumer market reduces transit time for a more efficient supply chain. Through reliable operations, and efficient and timely inspections of chilled produce, GPA is establishing Savannah as a new gateway for perishable cargo.

SUSTAINABILITY: Investments in upgraded cranes, lighting and other equipment reduce fuel consumption and air-polluting emissions. Moving to electric rubber-tired gantry cranes for container handling reduces GPA’s carbon footprint by 96 percent per crane. Savannah’s electric ship-to-shore cranes capture enough energy from lowering boxes to power themselves for 18 minutes of each hour.

Garden City Terminal features four major truck gates providing a total of 48 truck lanes, which helps to avoid congestion and maintain superior cargo fluidity. The port’s single-terminal design allows for a fast, simple check-in process, even when moving containers for multiple shipping lines. The expedited process allows for turn times of 33 minutes for the pick-up or delivery of a single container, and 53 minutes for the delivery of one box and the pick-up of a second container. Savannah’s streamlined process means lower emissions from idling trucks.


Houston’s Foreign Trade Zone #84, one of the biggest FTZs in the entire country, continues to expand on as companies recognize the real benefits of joining an FTZ.

A total of 13 companies joined Foreign Trade Zone #84 in 2017, continuing the ongoing increase of participants into the zone. As the Houston region is growing rapidly, the zone has seen a significant increase in authorizations as more large importers and exporters take advantage of the financial benefits of using FTZ 84.

The total value of cargo in the zone in 2017 was more than $9 billion, which were predominately imports bound for U.S markets.

So far in 2018, 11 completed authorizations have been recorded, according to Shane Williams, Port Houston’s manager for FTZ and economic development. That means the growth experienced in recent years is continuing unabated, and still more activations are anticipated this year.

Port Houston manages Foreign Trade Zone #84, which includes many privately owned and port-owned sites located throughout Houston and Harris County, Texas. The primary benefits come in the form of import duty and tariff savings. For example, customs duties on imported goods entering the zone can be delayed until the cargo is moved out. No duty is paid if the merchandise is exported directly from the zone.

Companies like Houston-based Dixie Cullen Interests have benefited from joining FTZ 84. Within days of being certified as an FTZ, Dixie Cullen Interests had 99 truckloads of cargo with pieces weighing more than 170 pounds coming into its 300,000-square-foot facility.

“We are excited about the opportunity that it has opened up for us,” Dixie Cullen’s Catherine James said. “And we know that Port Houston is where we need to be.”

Port Houston’s container volume was the focus of an in-house study of Foreign Trade Zone #84 that was performed in 2017. Results of that study showed that zone users accounted for at least 11 percent of Port Houston’s import twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) and 6.5 percent of all TEUs. Container volumes at Port Houston have grown rapidly in recent years, and facilities have been expanded and modernized.

Port Houston was preparing for an anticipated surge in resin exports beginning this year as plant expansions along the Houston Ship Channel came online. And as its growth continues, Port Houston, which owns or operates eight terminals, will invest $1 billion-plus during the next several years in expansion and improvement projects.

One of the largest ports in the world—handling more than 230 million tons of cargo a year—Port Houston is the primary driver of global trade and commerce along the U.S. Gulf Coast. About two-thirds of all containers in the U.S. Gulf move through Houston.

That’s one reason that much of the money for infrastructure improvements at the port is being plowed back into Port Houston’s two container terminals, 40-year-old Barbours Cut and Bayport, which opened just over 10 years ago.

An investment of $350 million will be made during the next decade just at the Barbours Cut container terminal as part of an ongoing modernization process. Four new super post-Panamax wharf cranes were delivered in 2015 and became operational late in the year. Three additional cranes were delivered in 2017.

At Bayport, build-out continues based on demand. Container laydown areas are being constructed to increase storage capacity, while additional container yard and wharf expansion projects have been completed or are underway. Three state-of-the-art super post-Panamax wharf cranes are under construction and scheduled for delivery this year.

While Port Houston owns and operates the public facilities at the port, the greater Port of Houston is a 25-mile-long complex of those public terminals as well as private terminals located along the 52-mile-long Houston Ship Channel. More than 9,000 ship calls and 200,000 barge transfers are made at the port each year, and 100 steamship lines offer services linking Houston to the world via all major trade lanes.

Dredging Deeper. The channel fronting Barbours Cut has been deepened to 45 feet, while major construction dredging at Bayport also is complete, deepening that channel to 45 feet.

A vast network of interstate highways and three Class 1 railways connect Houston with an inland market of about 100 million consumers within 1,000 miles of the port. Millions of square feet of distribution centers are located nearby.

The Houston area’s current population of more than six million is projected to double in the next 20 to 30 years. Regional population growth will continue to trigger increased consumer demand, attracting import container cargo across Port Houston’s docks. Following the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016, new economic opportunities will open up for the Gulf Coast region as accessibility to East Asia grows via this vital trade route.

Port Houston is committed to ensure customers are well served. Priorities include extending truck gate hours— that has already happened at Bayport—and adding to technology systems to increase efficiency. Additionally, Port Houston will continue equipment balance and empty container availability through increased import volumes; have open and fluid access to road, highway and rail networks; and offer intermodal rail options to access markets, lower cost reduce emissions and free up truck capacity.


CEOs, developers, governmental officials and entrepreneurs are astounded by the “BOOM” that is heard around the globe that emanates from Southwest Louisiana.

Lake Charles and Sulphur anchor the five parish (county) area that is boarded by Southeast Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. At this moment, companies from the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia have all decided to stake a claim here in an industrial growth expansion that totals $97 billion.

“Our people and companies are making history,” said George Swift, President and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “Each day that passes, companies from across the globe are calling to learn about development and expansion possibilities while others call about the tens of thousands of temporary and permanent jobs that are going to be generated by industrial expansion.”

Southwest Louisiana is moving towards laying claim to the title of “Clean Energy Capital of the World” with the rise of liquefied natural gas import and export terminals, gas-to-liquid fuel facilities and other petrochemical projects that add to an industrial hub that rivals any in the world. Access to water, interstate, railway, pipe and air cargo services make Southwest Louisiana an enticing locale. Assets include:

Port of Lake Charles

The Calcasieu River Ship Channel was formed by channelization of the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico—36 miles—and an additional 32 miles out into the Gulf. The channel was created to provide deep water access for maritime commerce. A look at the channel today reinforces the theory of “build it and they will come”; dozens of industrial plants now line the channel, primarily refineries and petrochemical companies, bringing raw materials in, and shipping products out via the channel.

Bill Rase, the port’s Executive Director, notes that the facility and its administration are action oriented. “The Port is active every day, moving cargo in and out. It’s ranked the 11th-busiest port in the U.S.—and recent developments point to it becoming even busier in the months and years to come,” he said. “The Port is active—I should say proactive—in soliciting new customers and new cargo. We work hard to make sure our facilities and our services make economic sense for companies wanting to move cargo through an efficient transportation hub on the U.S. Gulf Coast.”

Calcasieu Ship Channel Facts

  • Carries 7.5 percent of the nation’s daily oil consumption
  • Is home to the nation’s fourth-largest refinery
  • Is home to two of the nation’s largest liquefied natural gas facilities
  • Handles 58 million tons of cargo annually
  • The area stores one-third of the U.S.’s strategic petroleum reserve
  • The area holds a complex of energy pipelines and the Henry Hub, a major natural gas hub for the U.S.

Chennault International Airport

Home to Northrop Grumman and AAR Aircraft Services, the airport can support aircraft manufacturing facility needs. The airport’s Part 139 airfield features a 200-foot-wide by 10,700-foot-long runway with 17-inch pavement capable of accommodating aircraft ranging in size from a small business jet to wide-body commercial airliners. Chennault is incorporated into Foreign Trade Zone 87 and features 13 million-square-feet of concrete and over 1.5 million square-feet of hangar, office and warehouse space.

Other noteworthy incentives are five large, certified development sites which provide future tenants a range of development opportunities. Four of the sites have rail frontage and all provide direct access to the airport’s runway facilities. Conveniently located on Interstate 10 between Houston and New Orleans, Chennault International Airport provides connectivity to Interstates 10 and 210, rail lines and the deep-water Port of Lake Charles.

Developers and companies interested in such as site should know a substation is on the property with plans being developed for enhanced dual feed service.

“The airport also offers approximately 300 acres of prime land for suppliers in an established industrial park owned by the Port of Lake Charles. There are no wetlands and all the acreage we have is available for development which can service agriculture, aviation or recreation,” said Randy Robb, the airport’s previous executive director.

Chennault International Facts

  • 10,700-foot runway
  • Part 139 designation
  • FAA contract Air Traffic Control tower
  • Enterprise zone, including tax credits
  • Designated Foreign Trade Zone (Zone 87)
  • 550 acres of development sites available

Lake Charles Regional Airport

The Lake Charles Regional Airport has commercial service to serve the needs of over 200,000 regional residents. Air service is provided by United Airlines and American Airlines. United provides service to their Houston hub which has connecting flights to virtually any place on the globe. United Airlines alone flies to more worldwide destinations than any other airline. American provides service to their Dallas/Fort Worth hub, which has connecting flights worldwide.

“The airport, in conjunction with our fixed base operator (Freeman Jet Center) is currently undertaking a $600,000 renovation which will provide first class facilities for corporate and private aircraft visiting our airport,” said airport executive director Heath Allen. “We just completed an expansion of our north apron designated to allow for additional hangars to be constructed. And the airport is currently in negotiations with a company wishing to construct a 10,000-square-foot hangar to house a corporate flight department on the south apron.”

Lake Charles Regional is home to 32 tenants with Era Helicopters as the longest customer housing 150 helicopters operating out of its company site. Era supports offshore oil and gas transportation, air medical services, search and rescue operations, firefighting, flight seeing and disaster relief efforts.

Allen notes that the airport is primed for more growth. “Much of the airport’s property is zoned for commercial and light industrial uses and is served by public utilities. Our parish (country) government recently bid a project that will bring public waste water disposal to the airport. This project will be very beneficial moving forward as the airport’s system is over 50 years old and at capacity.”

Interstate: Interstates 10 and 210 service a combined 100,000 motorists a day. I-10 is a logistics headliner as the roadway offers a complete route between America’s Pacific and Atlantic Coast. In Southwest Louisiana, the interstate gives access to all local airports, waterways and railways.

Rail: An extensive rail network makes its way through Southwest Louisiana with Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern servicing the area. The majority of the region’s industrial parks and its ports are furnished with rail access, a strong advantage in the distribution industry.


Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved a contract that will complete the fill-in of a wet basin at the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore’s Fairfield Marine Terminal. When completed, this will create more land to help handle the Port’s surging auto and roll on/roll off (farm and construction machinery) cargo.

“The Port of Baltimore is the number one auto port in the nation and continues to break cargo records every month,” said Gov. Hogan. “Our administration is committed to furthering this growth and strongly supports our great Port and its thousands of hardworking men and women handling the millions of tons of cargo coming in throughout the year.”

The Port of Baltimore’s combined public and private auto terminals had a record year in 2017 by handling 807,194 cars and light trucks. It was the first time surpassing the 800,000 car/light truck mark and the seventh consecutive year that Maryland had handled more cars and light trucks than any other U.S. port.

Filling in the wet basin will create seven acres of cargo storage area. This contract will complete the overall project by raising the elevation, adding a new storm drainage system, finished surfacing, lighting, fencing and a security booth.

Earlier this year, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) announced the state-owned public marine terminals at the Port of Baltimore set two new monthly records in May. The Port handled 61,058 autos and light trucks besting its previous record of 60,624 set in November 2015. Also, the Port in May handled 90,152 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) containers, the most in one month since August 2017 when it handled 88,391.

That news followed the 312-year-old Port having its best quarter ever during the first quarter of 2018 as a record amount of general cargo and containers made their way through the public marine terminals. A total of 2,765,247 tons of general cargo crossed the public piers during the first three months of 2018, 8 percent more than the first quarter of 2017, which was 2,560,065 tons. Also, the Port handled 156,991 containers during the first quarter, a 14 percent jump over 2017, which was a record year for containers at the Port of Baltimore.

In 2017, the Port of Baltimore’s public and private marine terminals handled 38.4 million tons of cargo, the most since 1979 and the third-highest tonnage in its history. The public marine terminals, managed by the MDOT MPA, handled a record 10.7 million tons of general cargo. It was the second consecutive year the public terminals handled more than 10 million tons of general cargo. Included in the general cargo number was a record 596,972 containers, an 11 percent jump from the previous record set in 2016.

Among the nation’s ports, the Port of Baltimore ranks first for autos and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, and imported sugar. The Port ranks second in exported coal. Overall, the Port ranks ninth among all ports for the total dollar value of cargo and 12th in foreign cargo tonnage.

Business at the Port of Baltimore generates about 13,650 direct jobs, while about 127,600 jobs in Maryland are linked to Port activities. The Port is responsible for nearly $3 billion in personal wages and salary and more than $300 million in state and local tax revenues.