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  April 6th, 2016 | Written by

Pick your port 2016

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  • America's Top Ports 2016
  • America's Leading Ports 2016

Picking a port isn’t as simple as going to the closest option. Sure, some ports can do it all, but many specialize in certain types of cargo and don’t offer service for other types. Perhaps you’ve negotiated great rail rates and can benefit from the on-dock rail option at a port that wouldn’t otherwise be your first choice. Whatever your particular needs are, it helps to be up to date with the goings on at these all-important gateways to the global marketplace.

While things tend to change slowly with such large and intricate infrastructure, there’s no doubt things are changing. West Coast ports have found new ways to move freight more efficiently and reduce bottlenecks; East Coast ports are working hard to be ready for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal. Throughout these profiles, you’ll see that in our data section many ports list the depth of their deepest channel, for instance, but also tell us the depth to which they are in the process of expanding.

We’re doing something new and exciting with this issue, as well. For our digital edition—which you can view at our website or by downloading the Global Trade app for Apple or Android—we’re introducing a quick and easy way to connect directly with the business development teams at the ports which have activated this service. For each applicable port, you can simply click “Connect” right from the story itself, then further research the port and/or tell them how it can help your business.

We’ve also just added Ports to the expanding Global Trade 101 section of our website, and have a growing list of them which you can research, compare and contact directly. From, select Global Trade 101 from the menu bar and you’re on your way!


FTZ No. 120

Deepest Channel: 43 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highway: I-5

Types of Cargo: Dry Bulk, Breakbulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: South Korea, 14 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Unlike neighboring ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Longview does not handle containers. This is an industrial port, the first industrial port shippers encounter on the Columbia River, and it handles bulk and breakbulk. Another neighbor, Vancouver, also handles bulk, but Longview has the distinction of offering dual rail service with direct service from both Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads. Its project cargo and bulk capabilities have been greatly expanded by the addition of a second Liebherr mobile crane. The cranes each lift up to 140 metric tons and they were purchased with a clamshell bucket that gives Longview the flexibility in handling bulk and scrap metal. Also distinguishing Longview is the fact that it handles most of its operations itself.  “I would say that we can customize services to our customers’ needs because they don’t have to go through a terminal operator,” says Laurie Nelson-Cooley, manager of Business Development. “With that, we’re able to be a little more customer-centric since we’re more involved with them.”


Largest ships accepted: Panamax

Deepest Channel: 43 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-5, I-84

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk, Project Cargo

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 14 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Located only 106 river miles from the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is situated on a 43-foot deep-draft shipping channel. Its Advantaged Supply Chain is the most efficient, direct, uninterrupted route between the Pacific Rim and the U.S. mid-continent, half the distance from the Pacific Rim as Gulf ports and offers the most direct and cost effective rail access into the Midwest and Canada. The port recently completed an innovative trench structure as part of the West Vancouver Freight Access project that will more than triple the port’s rail capacity, reducing delays by as much as 40 percent. It will help move freight along the BNSF and Union Pacific mainlines to connect the Pacific Northwest to major rail hubs in Chicago and Houston, providing a direct route from the Pacific Rim to Canada and the Midwest. “We have a proven record for handling project cargo,” says Alastair Smith, chief marketing and sales officer for the port. “We’re a global leader in the importing of wind energy components and are a gateway for large modularized components for the oil and gas industry via the Columbia Snake River System into North America.”


FTZ No. 45

Largest ships accepted: 7,200 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 43 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-5, I-84, I-205

Types of Cargo: Autos, Containers, Grains, Agricultural Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Shanghai, 10 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

“There isn’t a single maritime service we can’t handle,” says Greg Borossay, the Port of Portland’s senior manager. “While other ports are really good at certain things, some handling windmills, bulk cargoes, autos, we do all those things as well as container. There are some we choose not to do—crude oil, for example—but we can do everything.” What Portland does particularly well is handle cars. The port is the leader when it comes to autos in the Northwest, moving just less than 550,000 cars, both imports—Toyota, Hyundai, Honda—and domestic. The port is so well equipped to handle autos, through facilities, layout space and the rail connectivity with the Midwest where most cars are produced, that it is looking into expanding its operations further. “We’re a niche port with big port capability,” Borossay continues. “We can provide the customer service, hand-holding, the analysis to help each shipper as if they are our only customer and can do it with all the resources of a major port.”


Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-80, I-580

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Shanghai, 15 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Existing in close proximity to big ports and consumer markets in Oakland and San Francisco, Port of Richmond focuses on what it does best: bulk commodities, liquid bulk and automobiles. A recently completed series of improvements to Richmond’s automobile distribution facility attracted Japanese automobile manufacturer Subaru to the port to import cars. It also recently entered into a long-term lease to export logs to China. Like its neighbors in Oakland and San Francisco, Port of Richmond benefits from “our proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, where all ships must pass through, and the fact that we have both transcontinental railroads (BNSF, UP) providing service,” port Director Jim Matzorkis says. We also have great highway connectivity; we’re right on I-580 and that connects with the 101 and I-80 just about five miles from the port itself.”


FTZ No. 231

Largest ships accepted: Panamax

Deepest Channel: 37 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-5, Hwy 4, Hwy 99

Types of Cargo: Agricultural, Breakbulk, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk, Steel, Project Cargo

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Mexico, 4 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

California’s San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys are among the richest agricultural areas in the world, and the Port of Stockton is situated in the middle of this region, providing access to international markets for both imports and exports. Much of the light manufacturing formerly located in the Bay Area has moved to the Stockton area, providing it with a busy local economy and a market for the goods moving through the port. “We’ve dredged all our berths to 35 feet, reducing berth congestion and allowing our waterside sheds to be used more efficiently,” says port Director Richard Aschieris. “Our ILWU local is expanding, reducing the possibility of labor shortages. And, as noted, we’re expanding one of our class yards significantly which will continue the improvement to our existing rail network.” Part of that improvement plan is the expansion of the 700 Yard by 4.5 miles, effectively doubling unit train capacity. Stockton has also reconfigured a BNSF bridge/overpass to allow for more clearance, a first step in the process of improving access to I-5 and Hwy 99.


Largest ships accepted: 18,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 50 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-80, I-580, I-880, I-980

Types of Cargo: Containers

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Japan, 11 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Faster delivery of cargo and less waiting time for harbor truckers have become points of emphasis at Oakland, and the port’s efficiency has made significant improvements due to a number of enhancements, including adding longshore labor, off-terminal locations where cargo can be dropped off or picked up, and extended gates and technology to measure and communicate wait times at terminal gates. The port has a new $100 million, 13-track railyard that will add 44,000 feet of new track and give shippers the ability to form complete trains at the port for transport of containerized imports. It will raise four and possibly as many as eight massive gantry cranes 26 feet higher to span the modern mega-ships that use the port. Oakland has also managed to strike a balance between its import and export customers. “We have balanced trade with a near 50-50 split between imports and exports, making equipment readily available for both,” says John C. Driscoll, the port’s maritime director. That equipment is complemented by two Class I railroads, deep berths and harbors and easy access to four major interstates, all of which explains why Oakland has regular service from the world’s top 20 ocean carriers.


FTZ No. 205

Largest ships accepted: 2,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 35 feet

Rail line: UP

Highway: U.S. 101

Types of Cargo: Fruit, Autos, Ro/Ro, Project Cargo

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 7 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Hueneme benefits from a unique business portfolio that begins with locational access to the Los Angeles basin and its 14 million people/consumers, without all the major congestion. What’s more, the port’s many rail connections give it relatively easy access to the Southwest, Midwest and Canada, which was a big reason why BMW decided to locate its only distribution center there. The port has developed quite a reputation and client list when it comes to Ro/Ro, in no small part because of a very skilled workforce that has been working in that field, handling the same equipment and cargo, for years. The port is also well known for its handling of fresh fruit—seeing better than 650,000 tons of bananas annually—and are considered experts in the cold chain. Looking ahead, port Director and CEO Kristin Decas says she’s excited by a new shore-side power program that allows ships to plug-in and use the port’s power instead of their own, thereby “using electricity instead of diesel which reduces particle pollution by 92 percent and significantly improve air quality.”


FTZ No. 202

Largest ships accepted: 18,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 53 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, Pacific Harbor Lines, UP

Highways: I-110, I-710

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China/Hong Kong, 14 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Los Angeles has been America’s No. 1 container port for the past 10 years, handling a million more TEUs than neighboring Long Beach per year. “I would say the reason is because of the facilities we’ve built historically, whether mega-terminals or a superior rail facility that not only has a working track but storage track,” says Eric Caris, the port’s marketing director. Add to that the $500 million TraPac project creating the first fully automated terminal on the West Coast, which is connected to Berth 200 Rail Yard, a fully automated rail facility. Of course, there are some very real advantages to L.A., one being a temperate climate, the other being deep water that can accommodate any existing ship. “Those are big natural advantages, of course,” Caris says. “Then add to that our incredible infrastructure, a top rail system and 1.8 million square feet of industrial property; that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. We’re not ready to give up that No. 1 spot any time soon.”


FTZ No. 50

Largest ships accepted: 18,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 76 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, Pacific Harbor Lines, UP

Highway: I-710

Types of Cargo: Containers, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 13 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Long Beach is one of the largest, busiest and most productive container cargo ports in the world. “More than three quarters of Long Beach’s business is container cargo, with more than 5,000 cargo containers moved off and on the average-sized vessels for each ship call in Long Beach; the highest such average for any port in the world,” says Jon Slangerup, port CEO. But its impressive standing on the global stage hasn’t deterred it from getting better. Witness the 10-year, $4 billion capital improvement program to modernize its Middle Harbor container terminal, replace the aged Gerald Desmond Bridge with a taller, safer bridge and double the capacity of its on-dock rail system. During the past year, on-dock capacity increased from 23 to 28 percent, with a goal of increasing capacity to 50 percent within 10 years. Every train moving off the port eliminates between 750 and 1,000 truck trips, relieving congestion at the port and surrounding roadways. Long Beach also is able to speed goods to market via North America’s most extensive multi-modal transportation infrastructure, including a major network of warehouses and distribution centers.


Largest ships accepted: Panamax

Deepest Channel: 47 feet

Rail line: BNSF

Highways: I-5, I-15

Types of Cargo: Project Cargo, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Ecuador, 9 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

San Diego’s two deep water marine cargo terminals provide customized service for specialty cargo and its Tenth Avenue Terminal is a key import facility for wind turbine products and bananas—more than 2 billion bananas pass through there each year. The National City Marine Terminal is operated by Pasha Automotive Services and is the most efficient auto processing facility on the West Coast; one in 10 new foreign cars shipped to the U.S. enters through Port of San Diego. “We process primarily specialty cargo that doesn’t fit in standard containers including high, wide and heavy breakbulk that is shipped without containers or packaging such as windmill parts and military equipment, refrigerated containers for produce and perishables and dry bulk,” says Joel Valenzuela, maritime director at the port. “We have an advantage with these because less traffic from container ships means less waiting.” Other advantages include San Diego’s famous temperate weather and its location about 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s the first U.S. port for northbound sailings from the west coasts of Mexico, Central and South America.


FTZ No. 62

Deepest Channel: 42 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-69, I-169

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Dry bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Brazil, 25 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

The largest land-owning port in the United States, Brownsville covers more than 40,000 acres of land stretching all the way to the Mexican border. “The only port in the nation that can make that claim,” says Steve Tyndal, senior director of Marketing & Business Development. In fact, it is Brownsville’s proximity to and unique relationship with Mexico that attracts many of its clients. For instance, when it comes to heavy haul, customers are able to load or receive cargo on trucks loaded to the maximum weight allowed in Mexico, which is 125,000 pounds, meaning significant cost savings compared to other ports that must load to a lighter standard. The port recently dedicated a new multipurpose, 600-foot-long heavy load service dock, Dock 16, which accommodates deep draft cargo vessels. It also affiliated with OmniTRAX, which operates a series of short-line railroads, to operate within the port, a relationship that has worked quite well as Brownsville set a record last year by moving just shy of 40,000 rail cars. “If a customer has a business or wants to start doing business in Mexico it’s really hard to beat Brownsville,” Tyndal says.

Port Corpus Christi

FTZ No. 122

Largest ships accepted: 5,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 45 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, KCS, UP

Highways: I-37, I-69

Types of Cargo: Crude Oil, Refined Products, Chemicals, Breakbulk, Dry Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Nigeria, 21 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

The port expects to complete a range of new construction projects by next year from companies such as TPCO, Voestalpine and M&G Resin. The projects, which in total will cost upwards of $40 billion, include Phase 2 of the Nueces River Rail Yard—under construction and expected to be completed by 2017, providing storage space for eight unit trains and a total of 40 miles of railroad tracks. Corpus Christi has already completed an extension and 45-foot deepening of La Quinta Channel to accommodate Voestalpine’s vessels for import of iron ore and export of hot briquetted iron starting in 2016. It’s also completed Phase 1 of the Nueces River Rail Yard, expected to be in service later this year and which will enable the port to handle up to 12,000 additional rail cars per year. Patricia Cardenas, director of Communications, says the improvements add to Corpus Christi’s already significant advantages. “Our easy access to a 45-foot-deep ship channel, three Class I railroad companies and our proximity to the Laredo border crossing with access to Mexico via rail and truck,” she says, have folks at the port excited about the future.


FTZ No. 149

Largest ships accepted: 2,500 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 47 feet

Rail lines: UP

Highways: Hwy 36, Hwy 288, Hwy 332, Hwy 2004

Types of Cargo: Containers, Liquid Bulk, Breakbulk, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days transit: Central America, 4 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

One of the big, and deep, selling points of Port of Freeport has always been its deep water channel. But Jason Muira, the port’s director of Business Development, says what gets clients excited these days is what’s happening on dry land. “What we hear a lot is, ‘Wow! You have a lot of space!’” Indeed, Freeport boasts 600 acres of land that has already been mitigated and is ready to be developed for any type of project. On top of that is another 2,000 acres that will eventually be mitigated, providing even more potential. While the port has always excelled at handling fresh fruit—something it has done for better than 35 years for the likes of Dole and Chiquita, moving roughly 6 million bananas a week—the last few years have been exciting because of many new tenants, the recently completed construction of a new container terminal, and purchase of new cranes that have contributed to Freeport experiencing 25 percent growth, from 2014 to 2015, in container traffic.


FTZ No. 84

Largest ships accepted: 11,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 45 feet plus 2

Rail lines: BNSF, KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, I-45, U.S./I-69

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Shanghai, 24 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Whether the city or its port, Houston has long been a region that gets it when it comes to business and trade. For instance, its port, already one of the nation’s largest, invests at least another $1 billion every five years on infrastructure improvements, recently ranging from new container yards, additional Panamax and Super Post-Panamax cranes—the largest in North America—to improvements at its Barbour’s Cut Terminal, which will soon be served by Panamax cranes exclusively. The port recently announced plans to create a 300,000-square-foot cold storage facility at its Bayport Terminal. Last year, a deepening and widening project saw the port dredge down to 47 feet, enabling it to handle the largest container ships. All in all, it’s led to double-digit growth in Houston, which also has the very great advantage of being centrally located or “smack dab in the middle of America,” as John Moseley, senior director of Trade Development, puts it. “You can easily access all of the North America market, east or west, by rail or road, which is why we have a lot of companies relocating their distribution centers here.”


FTZ No. 36

Deepest Channel: 45 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, UP

Highways: I-45, I-10

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Dry Bulk, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 21 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

The oldest port in Texas and the oldest west of the Mississippi, Galveston is not afraid to get into new markets and try new things. Consider its public-private partnership to open the Galveston Vehicle Distribution Center with BMW, which will expand its distribution network to better serve 45 BMW and Mini dealers in four states. The processing center is more than 44,000 square feet in two buildings on 20 acres of land and will process almost 35,000 vehicles annually. Galveston is one of the biggest ports in the Gulf because it has a big Ro/Ro niche as well as an impressive footprint in wind energy. “We handle turbines, towers, all the things associated with that and have a specialized rail yard built to receive shuttle trains for wind cargo,” says John Peterlin III, senior director of marketing and administration, who adds that his port’s close proximity to deep water means rapid access for shippers, and its location “on the doorstep of the Houston metro region” allows shippers quick, unobstructed access and turnarounds.


FTZ No. 115

Deepest Channel: 41 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, U.S. 90

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Dry Bulk

The Port of Beaumont recently finalized more than $275 million in infrastructure improvements at its Jefferson and Orange County properties, while recently completed rail improvements expanded the port’s capacity, efficiency and security for switching and operations. Beaumont is the world’s busiest military port. It has 36-40 foot depth with wide aprons, more than 620,000 square feet of covered storage space alongside nine berths and more than 80 acres of open-air storage along the west bank of the Neches River in downtown Beaumont. Its East Bank facilities feature a 650-foot heavy-duty cargo wharf and state-of-the-art terminal for crude oil transloaded from rail cars to barges. The crude oil terminal, owned and operated by Jefferson Energy Companies, is served by rail infrastructure capable of discharging two 120-car unit trains of crude oil simultaneously. That rail capability, along with the recent improvements, have strengthened the Port of Beaumont’s position in the region for handling a critical commodity.


FTZ No. 116

Deepest Channel: 40 feet

Rail lines: KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, U.S. 69, U.S. 73, U.S. 82, U.S. 87

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Project Cargo, Bulk, Military Cargo

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Brazil, 10 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Port Arthur has been around since 1969, making it a mere pup in port years. “We’re probably the newest and most modern port in the region,” says Orlando Ciramella, senior director of Trade Development. And it certainly has room to grow. The port purchased land to its west and is looking to expand with a liquid terminal or an LNG facility. It also recently completed about 6,500 feet of additional track space for rail car space, storage and placement, making it easier to do extra rail business. A couple years ago, it completed an expansion into wood pellets of which it now handle about 500,000 tons a year. “We handle a lot of Brazilian wood pulp from a company called Fibria. They only work with three ports and they’ve told us we rank at the top because of our labor force’s productivity, our pricing, IT and that we historically have good business practices,” Ciramella says. Port Arthur’s 100-foot wide working apron has three sets of rail tracks on it which is pretty unusual, and the aprons’ strength is an exceptional 800 pounds to the square foot, which allows it to handle a lot of project cargo.


FTZ No. 87

Deepest Channel: 40 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, I-210

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Dry Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: West Africa, 28 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

You might think that being located in a sparsely populated area would be a disadvantage but Lake Charles, located in a southwest Louisiana metro area of just about 230,000 people, believes this gives them an advantage. It makes it easier for ships to access, and it’s popular with the industry because there is plenty of land, much of it rather cheap, without the problems associated with congestion that you have at a lot of other ports. “Over the last three or four years we’ve had announcements of a potential $82 billion in investment in Lake Charles,” says Daniel Loughney, director of Marking and Trade Development. “These are in various stages, anywhere from planning to construction. [South African energy company] Sasol is building an $8 billion ethane cracker complex that will employ 5,000 construction workers for several years and create 500 full-time jobs.” When it comes to energy, a lot of it is already here; petroleum, refining. The personnel to work that industry is fed by a training program at the local community college and McNeese State, which set up modules that graduates people ready to walk right in, turn on the machines and start working on day one.


FTZ No. 124

Deepest Channel: 41 feet

Rail lines: CN, KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, I-12, I-55, U.S. 44, U.S. 61

Types of Cargo: Petrochemical, Grain

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 30 days

Union/Non-Union: Non-Union

Think Executive Director Paul Aucoin is a little proud of his operation? Asked about his sales pitch to potential shipping customers, he is blunt: “I tell them they’re not going to find a better place, end of story.” The reasons are numerous and include the deep water of the Mississippi and long-term, low-cost natural gas that is projected to be low cost for the next 30 years. Because of that, South Louisiana set a record in 2014 for tonnage at 291 million and then topped that last year. “And we figure we’ll break that record this year,” says Aucoin, who adds that the port is also distinguished by its access to 54 miles of the Mississippi River, “108 miles when you consider both sides,” deep water and the low price of natural gas, which attracts companies. “In fact, right now we have 64 existing industries here with a whole bunch of new ones that want to come in,” he says. “We have $16 billion in announced projects coming to the port and two $9.5 billion projects which are kind of kicking the tires right now, looking to locate here.”


FTZ No. 2

Largest ships accepted: 10,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 47 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, CN, CSX, KCS, NS, UP

Highways: I-10, I-12, U.S. 55, U.S. 59, U.S. 90

Types of Cargo: Bulk, Containers

Union/Non-Union: Both

The port recently cut the ribbon on a dockside intermodal rail terminal on a 12-acre piece of property in the middle of the container terminal. Run by Canadian National Railroad, the new facility has six different rails of more than 4,000 feet that have taken New Orleans from a capacity of 20,000 TEUs to 200,000 TEUs. “It’s quite an upgrade,” says Gary LaGrange, president and CEO. Perhaps benefiting the most has been the 92 chemical plants around the region which have enthusiastically taken advantage of the new intermodal terminal to rail and truck their raw products for export. “It’s really taking off and growing quite substantially,” LaGrange says. “In fact, the people in chemicals tell us the potential is virtually unlimited.” The same can be said for the Mississippi River, which remains New Orleans’ greatest natural attribute. The port is located on the river and with access to it and all its tributaries shippers can connect to 33 states without ever touching dry land; in all it adds up to 14,500 navigable miles of waterway.


Deepest Channel: 47 feet

Rail lines: NS, East Bank, West Bank, New Orleans Gulf Coast

Highways: Hwy 39, Hwy 23

Types of Cargo: Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk

Union/Non-Union: Non-Union

Plaquemines is not only the first port on the Mississippi, giving it access to the more than 30 states that are serviced by the river, but it is 35 to 40 miles closer to the open Gulf than the Port of New Orleans. In fact, Plaquemines Port is the closest port to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But John L. Pennison, deputy port director, says he would not only emphasize the port’s deep water advantages but its availability of land. Currently Plaquemines Port is in the process of developing greenfield sites and it does not currently own any facilities. The port purchased its first piece of property in December 2013 for development purposes. This property is currently under an option with Venture Global LNG for the development of an LNG Export/Liquefaction facility with construction slated to begin in the second quarter of 2017. One thing making that land very attractive to business is the fact that Plaquemines has the lowest property tax rates in the Greater New Orleans area.


FTZ No. 92

Largest ships accepted: 1,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 36 feet

Rail line: KCS

Highways: I-10, U.S. Route 49

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Dry Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Honduras, 3 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

Keeping the Port of Gulfport ahead of freight demand led officials to embark on a $570 million restoration project, which will see the construction of wharves, terminals, three new ship-to-shore gantry cranes and intermodal container transfer facilities by its late-2017 completion. Port of Gulfport Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Daniels calls the modernization plan integral to diversifying the port’s tenant base and positioning it as an economic engine for the Southern Mississippi region. “This multifaceted project paves the way for dynamic, new opportunities for the port, for businesses, and for the community,” he says, revealing that the Port of Gulfport now spans 300 acres. “Our [recent] efforts to expand have allowed us to further establish ourselves as a premier port in the Gulf of Mexico,” he says. In addition to the restoration program, the Port of Gulfport and chemical company Chemours invested $85 million in the construction of a new bulk-handling facility last July. Once complete, the facility will provide more than 200,000 tonnes of static capacity—an 82 percent increase over current capabilities, Daniels says.


FTZ No. 82

Largest ships accepted: Super Post-Panamax

Deepest Channel: 45 feet

Rail: BNSF, CN, CG Railway, CSX, KCS, NS

Highways: I-10, I-65, U.S. 43, U.S. 45, U.S. 90, U.S. 98

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk, Project Cargo

Union/Non-Union: Both

Alabama’s only deep-water port, the Port of Mobile benefits from “immediate and unencumbered” access to two major interstates, as well as five Class I railroads, says Alabama State Port Authority spokeswoman Judith Adams (whose ASPA owns and operates the Port of Mobile). Steel and coal products account for the port’s top loads, with the Port of Mobile containing McDuffie Terminal—the nation’s largest import coal terminal. Such a facility is extremely advantageous to coal companies, Adams says, since it “uses automation to simultaneously handle import/export coal to and from ships, railways and barges on a 24/7 basis.” The port’s trade process will be even more streamlined in the future, thanks to a $40 million investment by ASPA partner APM Terminals. This initiative, launched last July, involves the addition of two new Super-Post Panamax cranes and the expansion of the Choctaw Point container terminal—a move that will increase its capacity to 475,000 TEUs. Adams says APM Terminal’s venture complements the ASPA’s $50 million investment in an intermodal container transfer facility, slated for completion this year.


FTZ No. 79

Largest ships accepted: 5,000 TEUs now; 9,000 TEUs soon

Deepest Channel: 43 feet

Rail line: CSX

Highways: I-4, I-75, I-275, U.S. 41, U.S. 301

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk, Dry Bulk, Project Cargo, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Brazil, 36 hours

Union/Non-Union: Both

June marks a big month for Port Tampa Bay, reveals port CEO Paul Anderson. The port’s two new Post-Panamax container gantry cranes will enter service at the beginning of the month—an event that “very coincidentally coincides” with the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, Anderson says. Port Tampa Bay is also benefiting from an expanded petroleum terminal that will enable it to handle nearly 45 percent of the fuel that enters Florida. “There are two major gateway ports for energy in Florida—and we’re one of them,” Anderson says. “Port Everglades is the other.” But what sets Port Tampa Bay apart from the competition, he says, is size and freight volume. Florida’s largest port in terms of area—Port Tampa Bay boasts a 5,000-acre port complex—the port handled more than 37 million tonnes of freight last year. “We also have proximity to Tampa and Orlando, as well as the [Interstate-4] corridor—home to the state’s largest concentration of distribution centers,” Anderson reveals. It’s also Florida’s fastest-growing market, he adds, further propelling freight growth.


FTZ No. 169

Largest ships accepted: 5,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 40 feet

Rail line: CSX

Highways: I-75, I-275

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk, Dry Bulk, Project Cargo

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Costa Rica, 3 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

Location is Port Manatee’s biggest advantage, says Executive Director Carlos Buqueras. Not only does the Florida-based port boast direct access to the Gulf Coast, it’s also the closest U.S. seaport to the expanding Panama Canal—a major boon to global shippers, Buqueras says. Much of the cargo that passes through Port Manatee is perishables, with tropical fruits and vegetables comprising the port’s key imports and citrus juices topping the list of exports. Fortunately, the port has the capacity to handle these loads, Buqueras says, since it houses the largest refrigerated warehouse on Florida’s west coast. “Over 200,000 square feet of space makes Port Manatee the obvious choice for regional and national distribution of perishable products,” he says. The port also operates its own short-line railroad, providing it with non-congested access to the local interstate. “And significant upgrades to [Florida’s] U.S. Route 41, as well as enlargement of our south gate, is expected to prevent future congestion,” Buqueras adds. Preventing congestion even more is nearly 5,000 acres of land ripe for development adjacent to Port Manatee.


FTZ No. 281

Biggest ships accepted: Super-Post-Panamax

Deepest Channel: 52 feet

Rail lines: Florida East Coast Railway

Highways: I-395, I-95

Types of Cargo: Autos, Bulk, Containers

Union/Non-Union: Union

Three major investments have increased access to PortMiami. The port deepened its water depth to 50 feet as of August of last year, completed a major investment in 2014 that connects PortMiami to the highway system, and also invested $50 million to create an on-dock intermodal yard with its partner Florida East Coast Railway. Geographically, PortMiami has two primary advantages. “We are the shopping cart of America when it comes to containerized cargo trade, whereby by we import goods from all over the world and re-export them into the Americas,” says Kevin T. Lynskey, deputy port director. This, Lynskey says, has helped make Florida the dominant force in trade with the Caribbean and Latin America. PortMiami is also the first port of call for a vessel transiting the Panama Canal heading up the East Coast of the United States. Having improved its three modes of access for ships, trucks and intermodal rail, PortMiami plans on improving its crane capacity and density of its cargo yards. As the ships planning to call on Miami are getting larger, the port plans to be more efficient on the dock and in the terminal.


FTZ No. 25

Largest ships accepted: 9,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 42 feet, soon to be 48 feet

Rail: Florida East Coast Railway

Highways: I-95, I-595, I-75, Florida Turnpike

Types of Cargo: Containers, Dry Bulk, Breakbulk, Petroleum

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Central America, 7-8 days        

Union/Non-Union: Both

In July 2014, Florida East Coast Railroad opened a container transfer facility at Port Everglades, a big step in raising its intermodal profile. “It came about through a public-private partnership,” says Business Development Director Jim Pyburn. “The port contributed 43.5 acres and the railroad invested $54 million in infrastructure. We are also putting in additional new rail for the new Super-Post-Panamax gantry cranes we are anticipating bringing in.” Port Everglades is located one mile from the Atlantic Ocean and immediately adjacent to interstate highways. “We are within four days of 70 million consumers and growing,” says Pyburn. Perishables have emerged as a key cargo for Port Everglades, as it ranks No. 1 in Florida in that category, handling half of all perishables arriving in Florida from Latin America. The port is participating in a Department of Agriculture program that, for the first time, allows certain perishables to arrive in southern ports to be cold treated for pests. The port pioneered service to Cuba for products allowed under the U.S. embargo. “Since 2000 we have had service to Havana,” says Pyburn, “carrying relief products, medicines and food.”


FTZ No. 136

Largest ships accepted: 5,500 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 46 feet

Rail lines: CSX, NS, Florida East Coast Railway

Highways: I-95, I-4, I-75

Types of Cargo: Containers, Bulk, Liquid Bulk, Autos

Union/Non-Union: Both

Port Canaveral is best known as a cruise port—it’s one of the world’s biggest—while on the cargo side, it has historically handled bulk commodities such as salt and fuels. But Port Canaveral is making big moves into two new areas—containers and automobiles—and port CEO John Murray is excited for the prospects that those new businesses bring.

“We opened a new container terminal last June,” says Murray, “and we acquired two refurbished Post-Panamax gantry cranes.” The port has 30 acres ready for containers and the ability to expand to 70. It won’t be the biggest container operation in the world, but Canaveral does have attributes that will attract shippers. Though immediately adjacent to highways and having connections to national rail lines, it is remote from other Florida east coast ports and has experienced no congestion. “Our central location means we are within three and a half hours from anywhere in Florida,” says Murray. Port Canaveral is also moving into autos. “Autoport recently set up shop here,” Murray adds, “and they are very enthusiastic about starting to import and export through Port Canaveral.”


FTZ No. 64

Deepest Channel: 40 feet, soon to be 47 feet

Rail: CSX, NS, Florida East Coast Railway

Highways: I-10, I-95, I-295

Types of Cargo: Containers, Ro/Ro, Breakbulk, Bulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Puerto Rico, 2 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

By the end of 2016, the Port of Jacksonville will have invested more than $200 million in five major improvement projects within two years, focused on allowing JAXPORT to handle larger vessels. Berths are being rebuilt, Super-Post-Panamax cranes are being acquired, and navigational impediments are being removed. “Our harbor deepening project will take the channel from 40 feet to 47 feet,” says CEO Brian Taylor. “We’re on schedule to begin dredging in the first quarter of 2017.” In addition, an intermodal container transfer facility immediately adjacent to the marine terminals will facilitate transfers of ocean containers to rail for inland moves. On the horizon, JAXPORT expects to become a hub for the production, use and export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). “Carriers here have invested $300 million each in LNG vessels,” says Taylor. “Two companies are investing in liquefaction facilities that will make LNG available for export opportunities. I foresee the port of Jacksonville being a leader in the use of liquefied natural gas in maritime applications and in shoreside applications and in the eventual export of that commodity overseas.”


FTZ No. 104 
Largest ships accepted: 12,000 TEUs
Deepest Channel: 42 feet, soon to be 47 feet
Rail: CSX, NS
Highways: I-95, I-16
Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Project Cargo, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 25-36 days
Union/Non-Union: Both

The Port of Savannah moved 3.73 million TEUs in 2015, roughly twice the volume of its nearest competitor. “Savannah is truly the load center for containerized trade in the U.S. Southeast,” says Curtis Foltz, Georgia Ports Authority executive director. Garden City Terminal’s single-terminal design means truck drivers enjoy fast turn-times. Served on-terminal by two Class I railroads, Savannah boasts overnight service to Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Birmingham. Three years ago, the Port of Savannah purchased four new Super-Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes and is in the process of increasing its rubber-tired gantry crane fleet. “Just this year, the GPA opened a new 30-acre empty container yard and an eight-lane truck gate in order to speed the flow of trucks in and out of the terminal,” says Foltz. Savannah is the most westerly of the East Coast ports, and 100 miles closer to Atlanta than any other port, notes Foltz. “Savannah is also home to distribution centers for major retailers and 3PL providers,” he adds. “Georgia has been named the best state in which to do business because of its low tax burden, innovative workforce training and world-class logistics network.”


FTZ No. 21

Largest ships accepted: 14,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 47 feet, soon to be 54 feet

Rail lines: CSX, NS

Highways: I-26, I-526, I-95, U.S. 17

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Project Cargo, Ro/Ro

Union/Non-Union: Both

“I’m pleased to say we haven’t had any congestion in the Port of Charleston,” says South Carolina Ports Authority chief Jim Newsome. South Carolina has been proactive in getting ahead of the congestion problem, adopting a grounded operating model, acquiring sufficient equipment, and experimenting with expanded gate hours. Charleston is progressing with harbor deepening with the expectation the port will have the deepest water on the East Coast—at 52 feet—when the project is completed. The port’s terminals are undergoing enhancements, with the Wando Wharf being strengthened and receiving bigger cranes to handle bigger ships. It is equipped to handle the exports of a booming Southeast auto industry. “BMW has invested $2 billion in the region over the last five years,” says Newsome. “Volvo will build here in 2018. Our Columbus Street terminal handles over 250,000 BMW exports, double five years ago.” As far as containers, Newsome touts South Carolina’s low costs and high productivity. “We move over 40 containers per crane hour,” he says. “That sets us apart from other ports in the region.”


FTZ No. 214

Largest ships accepted: 7,000 TEUs, soon to be 10,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 42 feet

Rail line: CSX

Highways: I-40, I-140, U.S. 17, U.S. 74, U.S. 76, U.S. 117, U.S. 421

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Bulk, Project Cargo, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 30 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

Diverse goods such as poultry and pork, fluff pulp, retail goods, furniture, grains, wood chips and textiles make their way through the North Carolina ports daily. North Carolina’s ports are among the most market-accessible on the U.S. East Coast. The Port of Wilmington recently acquired one of the only on-terminal cold storage facilities in the east. The 101,000-square-foot facility will have the ability to store goods and blast freeze imports and exports on site. “Since North Carolina is one of the leading protein producers in the country, this new facility will help to better serve regional providers,” says Paul Cozza, North Carolina State Ports Authority CEO. North Carolina ports have avoided congestion by developing surplus capacity. The ports seamlessly handle 300,000 TEUs and 4 million tons of bulk cargo annually, just half their overall capacity. “New infrastructure advancements are on the way over the next two years,” says Cozza. The Ports Authority is investing $100 million enhancing multiple berths and purchasing of Post-Panamax container cranes. “By summer of 2016 the Port of Wilmington will be fully prepared to accommodate container vessels in the 8,000- to 10,000-TEU range,” Cozza adds.


FTZ No. 20

Largest ships accepted: 14,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 50 feet

Rail lines: CSX, NS, Norfolk & Portsmouth Beltline, Commonwealth Railway

Highways: I-64, I-264, I-664

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Ro/Ro, Autos

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 21 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

The Port of Virginia has been ready for today’s larger container ships for some time. The harbor boasts a natural depth of 50 feet with no overhead height restrictions. “We also have good intermodal connectivity,” says John Reinhart, CEO of the Virginia Port Authority. “Thirty-five percent of the freight we handle comes in and out by rail.” Bolstering Virginia’s intermodal profile is an inland port 260 miles inland and served by rail five days a week and, more recently, cooperation with the Port of Richmond, 105 miles upriver, which is served by barges. With its current focus on containers, the Virginia port is “trying to become a multiuse port,” says Reinhart. Six main deep-water terminals handle containers, while others handle breakbulk, heavy lift and Ro/Ro cargo. Yet another handles both containers and breakbulk. “Numerous private facilities handle commodities like coal and agricultural products,” says Reinhart. Virginia prides itself on the balance in the trade it handles. “We did more exports than imports last year,” says Reinhart. “The fact that ships can sail from here heavy and fully laden without impediment gives us a real advantage.”


FTZ No. 74

Largest ships accepted: 9,300 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 50 feet

Rail lines: CSX, NS

Highways: I-95, I-70, I-83

Types of Cargo: Containers, Autos, Project Cargo, Forest Products, Breakbulk

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 30 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Thanks to a public-private partnership with Ports America Chesapeake, a newly constructed 50-foot-deep container berth and four new supersized container cranes have become operational at the Port of Baltimore. “Baltimore is now one of only three U.S. East Coast ports able to accommodate some of the world’s largest ships,” says Jim White, executive director of the Maryland Ports Authority. “The Port of Baltimore is also reconstructing and strengthening roll on/roll off and auto berths.” The port is the closest East Coast port to the Midwest, is located within the third-largest U.S. consumer market, and ranks as the No. 1 port in the U.S. for autos and machinery, with four on-dock auto processors. “The Port of Baltimore does not have any congestion issues,” says White. Port efficiency has been measured at 75 container moves per hour per berth while truck turn times are 30 minutes for a single move and 50 minutes for a double move. “The port of Baltimore is ready today,” says White, “to handle the big ships that will soon transit the Panama Canal.”


FTZ No. 35

Largest ships accepted: 8,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 45 feet

Rail lines: CSX, NS

Highways: I-95, I-76

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: South America, 7-10 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

Port of Philadelphia operates in several niches and nimbly navigates the market to provide facilities and services to satisfy market demand. Long known for handling agricultural and perishable commodities, Philadelphia was recently named the nation’s No. 1 port for imported cocoa beans. “Our Pier 84 is dedicated to handling cocoa beans,” says port spokesman Joe Menta. Once preeminent in handling Chilean fruit, the breakbulk Tioga Marine Terminal has switched to wood pulp as fruit has moved to containers. The port is experiencing growth in a number of directions. “Our channel deepening project is 80 percent complete and the financing is fully in place,” says Menta. The project will take the channel to 45 feet next year. SeaLand recently launched its Atlantico service between Veracruz, Altamira and Philadelphia. “The service is trying to grab some of the cargo that traditionally goes to and from Mexico by truck,” says Menta.

Philadelphia’s Southport Terminal project is the first major port expansion in 40 years. The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority is currently evaluating proposals for the development of the 196-acre riverfront property.


FTZ Nos. 1 (NY), 49 (NJ)

Largest ships accepted: 10,000 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 50 feet

Rail: CP, CSX, NS

Highways: I-78, I-95, I-278

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk, Dry Bulk, Project Cargo, Ro/Ro

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 33 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

The bi-state Port Authority has oversight of three major international airports, two general aviation airports, a major port complex covering around 1,500 acres, major bridge and tunnel connectors and a major bus terminal in New York City. It’s also involved in the World Trade Center renovation. “The port’s size and scope can lead to a degree of complexity in one respect,” confides Sam Ruda, the Port Commerce assistant director. “At the same time, it also has the financial means and project management expertise and resources to oversee, manage and deliver highly complex capital projects in support of a large local and regional population base.” The creation of the Port Performance Task Force has allowed stakeholders to identify challenges to efficiency and propose solutions. The panel’s first 23 recommendations included improving chassis management systems and integrating a port community portal. These aren’t to be confused with the more typical port improvements, such as raising the height of the Bayonne Bridge by 2017. “Our focus and commitment is to remain a vital goods-movement gateway for the region and nation,” Ruda says.


FTZ No. 27

Largest ships accepted: 8,500 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 45 feet

Highways: I-90, I-93

Types of Cargo: Containers, Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk, Autos

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: China, 30 days

Union/Non-Union: Union

The port’s Conley Terminal is the only full service container terminal in New England—and the most direct and most cost-effective way for importers to reach the region’s 14 million consumers, says Michael Vanderbeek, deputy port director of Sales and Marketing. “Seven of the world’s top container lines call Conley Terminal and we consistently boast among the best turn times in the business as well as high productivity,” he says. “And we are investing in the future–not to be the biggest port in the world, but to be one of the best so that we can continue to offer our customers the value and service they deserve.” A dedicated freight corridor will soon link the terminal to three interstates, removing hundreds of trucks each day from nearby neighborhood streets, vows Vanderbeek. Massport recently became the first port in the world to implement the new mobile application Forecast Mobile Lite, which allows terminal customers to search for container availability information in real time. Massport has also worked with Customs to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its container screening capabilities.

Port of Duluth-Superior

FTZ No. 51

Largest ships accepted: 1,400 TEUs

Deepest Channel: 27 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, CN, CP, UP

Highways: I-35, I-535

Types of Cargo: Iron Ore, Coal, Dry Bulk, Project Cargo, Oil & Gas

Biggest Trading Partner: Canada

Union/Non-Union: Both

The port is undergoing one of its biggest modernization projects in the past 40 years, with dredging, new dock walls, new heavy lift and rail infrastructure improvements included. Executive Director Vanta Coda calls it “a positive” that Duluth-Superior is “an under-used waterway.” Congestion is present at ports with really big ships so “the takeaway capacity isn’t there,” Coda notes. “The future is very bright in the Great Lakes region because of the capacity we have. We can double or triple (takeaway capacity) with no real infrastructure improvements.” Shippers take note: “We are the farthest inland port to the center of North America,” he says. “We have access within 250 miles of our port to 4.5 million people. I would advocate that if you were looking to the Upper Midwest and western reaches of Canada coming from the Mediterranean or Northern Africa, we provide the farthest inland vantage point you can take.” With four Class I railroads, the port is “one of the few places in North America that has that kind of set-up,” he boasts.


FTZ No. 77

Deepest Channel: 12 feet

Rail lines: BNSF, CN, CSX, NS, UP

Highways: I-40, I-55

Types of Cargo: Breakbulk, Liquid Bulk, Dry Bulk

Union/Non-Union: Non-Union

Thanks to an east-west bridge built over the Mississippi River in the 1890s, “Memphis was one of the few locations where you could travel the country up and down and east and west,” says Randy Richardson, executive director of EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County). “By the time the railroads merged, we had five Class I railroads: two each going east and west and one north and south. Plus there are two interstates. Combined with the waterways and airlines, we like to say we have the four R’s.” Those would be river, rail, roads and runways ferrying the port’s top commodities: petroleum, food/farm products, coal, manufactured products and rock/other aggregates. And much more is coming to Memphis. An intermodal facility will soon double in size, a port road is being extended to meet a state road, a $25 million public dock renovation project is under way, Canadian National Railway and Eletrolux are developing large industrial and assembly/distribution projects respectively and even more industrial acreage is available. “There are a lot of things going on down there,” Richardson says.


FTZ No. 8

Deepest Channel: 26.5 feet

Rail: CN, CSX, NS

Highways: I-75, I-80/90, U.S. 23

Types of Cargo: Coal, Iron Ore, Dry Bulk, Breakbulk, Project Cargo, Liquid Bulk, Petroleum, Grain

Biggest Trading Partner, Days Transit: Northern Europe, 13 days

Union/Non-Union: Both

Toledo is centralized in the Great Lakes region, making the port ideal for importing, exporting and inter-lake trade in an area that’s home to more than 6 million people, including residents of Detroit, Cleveland, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio. “Our location affords access to all modes of transportation and the agricultural belt,” says Joe Cappel, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority vice president of Business Development. “We really want to offer shippers choices.” Those are possible due to state-funded improvements that began when the U.S. economy was still reeling in 2010. Two new cranes, a material handler for bulk products and better rail access for today’s bigger and longer rail cars were added to a shipyard that, Cappel confides, “had pretty much been unchanged since the 1950s.” The port authority has pivoted to expansion mode as the recently redeveloped Ironville Terminals have about 100 acres undeveloped with direct access to all modes of transportation. “There is not much infrastructure there yet because we really want to tailor it to the end user,” Cappel says. “It’s a great location for any sort of industry.”

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