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New leadership at the Port of Corpus Christi

Photo: Port of Corpus Christi View of Port of Corpus Christi
The Port of Corpus Christi, on the Texas coast, has seen a change in leadership, with the Kent Britton, formerly the port’s Chief Financial Officer since 2017, now promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

Britton, who had spent much of his career working with leading raw materials producers, including subsidiaries of Alcoa and Glencore, had been serving as interim CEO since 1 June following the departure of the port’s previous CEO Sean Strawbridge.

Britton, when taking the helm in early September, said: “As the global energy industry evolves in response to massive demand and rapidly advancing technologies, the ability to move fuels and chemicals safely and efficiently from Texas to destinations around the world will continue playing a make-or-break role in the creation of jobs and prosperity across the Coastal Bend region. The sky is the limit for our customers and this community, and we’re excited to be partners in that growth.”

His remarks hint at the successes of the port during the previous years, notably, as US crude oil exports have soared, buoyed by the “Shale Revolution”, Corpus has emerged as the leading hub for exports from the Permian Basin. Recent data from analysts RBN Energy, who closely monitor cargo moves out of US Gulf ports, showed Corpus moving more than half of the approximately 4.5 million barrels per day (mbd) of the Gulf’s crude exports during August 2023 with the month’s penultimate week seeing 4.8 mbd of crude outbound. RBN suggests that the port had a 59% share of the region’s seaborne crude exports in 2022.

The port was also very successful in garnering funding for an all-important channel deepening project. RBN, in its comments, wrote in July, 2023: “A long-planned ship-channel deepening and widening project in Corpus Christi Bay is in its last innings and is about to start having a real impact. Later this summer, a seven-foot-deeper channel at Ingleside will enable terminals there to load additional barrels into VLCCs…. Deepening the channel to 54 feet (from the old 47 feet) also will enable terminals that have deepened their berths to fully load 1 million barrel Suezmaxes, up from the 800,000-850,000 barrels that can be loaded now.”

The analysts add: “Crude oil export economics in South Texas will get another boost in late 2024 when the fourth and final portion of the $680 million dredging project is completed.”

Besides crude oil, Gulf Coast ports are also looking at their futures as “hydrogen hubs”, which would support movements of methanol and ammonia, both taking on importance as maritime fuels. Corpus is under consideration for US Department of Energy funding, as the Federal government is expected to be awarding grants for developing several hubs. Charles W. Zahn, Jr., Port of Corpus Christi Commission Chairman, told Seatrade Maritime News: “Mr. Britton brings a keen financial mind and three decades of experience that will serve him as he stewards the Port of Corpus Christi into a future of strong partnerships with our shipping clients and the communities we serve.”

Strawbridge, who also had close ties with the charterer side of the business, and has not announced his future plans, also stepped down as Chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the leading advocacy group for ports in the States. Paul Anderson, the Chairman of the Port of Tampa Bay, will take over the lead at the ports’ group.

Also at AAPA, Chris Connor, the organisation’s CEO, announced that he would be retiring at the beginning of October; no successor has been announced.

Under Connor’s watch, the AAPA had moved its headquarters into Washington, DC ,from its previous location in suburban Virginia, and had successfully guided the organisation through the pandemic with all the “supply chain disruptions” that ensued, followed by labour uncertainties facing West Coast ports. Emphasizing AAPA’s important role in bringing the ports together, Connor had supercharged the organization’s internal networking and conference activities.

TAGS: Americas