FREEPORT — Through a new 10-year agreement with Port Freeport, the vehicle import and export company Horizon Terminal Services, based out of Florida, will expand its existing operations inside the port by adding 20 acres, according to a port press release.

“I could kind of see a build out of another 20 acres as business grows,” HTS US operations general manager James Nash said. “That was always kind of our original intent, to build out additional acreage attached with that 20 acres.”

With the addition of 20 acres, Port Freeport will be able to construct “Roll on, Roll off” services, also known as RoRo, for easy loading or unloading and storage of cargo such as cars, heavy machinery and individual vehicle parts, port executive director and CEO Phyllis Saathoff said. Through the lease agreement, HTS will be able to connect a special ship designed with moveable and rotating floors for efficient loading and unloading of vehicle cargo, Saathoff said.

“If you’re just carrying cars, it’s like going to a floating parking garage,” Saathoff said. “It gives them a larger footprint so they can handle more automobiles or high and heavy equipment.”

Last year, around 90 percent of the roughly 70,000 cars moved through Port Freeport were brand new, a 40 percent jump from 2017, according to the release. That same year, several shipping lines within Port Freeport added connections to Oceania, Indian sub-continent, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the release states.

HTS’ presence and continuous growth in Port Freeport has a positive impact on the county, Saathoff said. Since the service opened in the port in 2015, about 100 local jobs have been created per nine to 10 vessels serviced each month, the port director said. Plus, as HTS revenue from Port Freeport operations increase, so does revenue to the port, Saathoff said.

“The new lease is an exciting expansion with the addition of the 20 acres because it will give them the capacity to handle another 100,000 units and the potential to handle vessel calls at another 30 percent,” Saathoff said. “I expect they will be able to attract additional services here to Port Freeport.”

As HTS and the port grow connections to other shipping lines and expand its ability to connect, Nash said he expects the company to continue its current growth in car imports and exports.

Right now, HTS primarily focuses on new car exports, the majority of which originate from Arlington for Texas operations and head to the Middle East, Europe via India and Australia and New Zealand, Saathoff said. While the majority of HTS’ current operations are primarily exports, Nash said their imports, largely fully-assembled cars from Korea, still make up a considerable portion of business and are growing.

“At least at this moment, it’s going to be, I’ll say, a positive outlook because what we’re going to do is promote the RoRo services to new car manufacturers ... to focus on imports coming into the region,” Nash said. “We’ve already got a few bites but I can’t share who that may be.”

Under the new leasing contract, HTS will occupy about 70 acres total within Port Freeport, with long-term plans to expand, Saathoff said. Construction on the RoRo services ramp sometime early August and will take about a year to build, the port CEO said.

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