BROWNSVILLE, Texas- While many industries struggled in 2020 due to the global pandemic, the Port of Brownsville managed to stay afloat and even experienced growth.

Eduardo A. Campirano, port director and CEO, spoke to Rio Grande Guardian Editor-in-Chief Steve Taylor about the state of the port and their monumental year. 

Eduardo Campirano

As one of the 16 essential infrastructure sectors identified by the federal government, the port remained fully operational.

“In spite of the year and the difficulties with the year, for us, we have to keep our doors open,” said Campirano. “ … The movement of cargo doesn’t stop. The closing the borders doesn’t stop. The receipt of global shipping doesn’t stop.”

Despite supply chain disruptions, Campirano said that the port saw an average of 1,500 trucks a day loading and unloading cargo. He explained that as businesses began to reevaluate their logistical operations during this health crisis, the Port of Brownsville became an appealing and, in some cases, cost-effective alternative.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate that we have the capability,” said Campirano. “And, you know, that commodity may move in by vessel, but it moves out by truck; we’ve moved it out by barge; we’ve moved it out by rail. So, the logistics platform is well-suited to provide that customer variety and access to markets perhaps in a much more affordable way, and so that’s been a plus for us.”

Campirano said the port opened up markets to Rio Grande Valley and Mexican businesses that had not been available before. Increases in cargo volume and diversity were the result. Manufactured goods like electronic parts and agricultural commodities like grain were shipped around the East Coast and even as far as China. Their newly initiated container service connected goods with Port Tampa Bay, another burgeoning market for businesses.

Campirano says that he is cautiously optimistic, even in good years, about the port’s revenue and growth and hoped to at least match last’s figures in light of the pandemic. In July, Brownsville Navigation District Commissioner John Reed said theport was faring the crisis well, but Campirano was pleasantly surprised to see that 2020’s numbers had surpassed those of 2019. With this trend, even as some major projects are still on hold, Campirano says 2021 “could be a year for the record books.”

“If we, with the advent of the vaccine for COVID [-19] and the return to some sense of normalcy, if we can hit that in full stride, then I believe the prospects for our region are very exciting.”

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