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  September 24th, 2021 | Written by


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Trade in and out of the United States would not be possible without sea and river port infrastructure spread across the length and breadth of the country. Using the latest available figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, we present the top 50 American power ports based on total tonnage of trade processed in 2019. 

1. Houston, TX

Total tons: 284.9 million 

Located within easy reach of the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Houston is one of the world’s largest ports, ranking sixth globally for total container TEUs. It is a huge complex made up of public and private facilities that stretches over 50 miles.  

2. South Louisiana, LA

Total tons: 233 million

Spanning 54 miles along the Mississippi River, the Port of South Louisiana is located in America’s leading grain exporting district. Port companies’ activities support more than 30,000 jobs, which represents 63% of all jobs in the River Region.

3. New York, NY and NJ

Total tons: 136.6 million 

The Port of New York and New Jersey is the busiest container port on the East Coast of the United States. Such is the strategic importance of its location, around a third of all US GDP is produced within 250 miles of the site. 

4. Corpus Christi, TX

Total tons: 111.2 million

In operation since 1926, the Port of Corpus Christi has become known as the Energy Port of the Americas, serving as the country’s second largest exporter of crude oil. It boasts a 36-mile, 47-foot-deep channel and is strategically located next to some of Texas’s largest highways. 

5. Beaumont, TX

Total tons: 101.1 million

Another Texan port, Beaumont is a well-developed facility that handles a range of cargoes, including bulk grain, aggregate, liquid petroleum, forest products, military equipment cargo, metals, and more. Its annual economic activity exceeds $24.5 billion. 

6. New Orleans, LA

Total tons: 92.2 million

The Port of New Orleans is a multimodal gateway that combines rail, river and road and is located on the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the sixth largest cruise port in the United States.

7. Long Beach, CA

Total tons: 80.7 million 

Sprawling across 3,520 acres of land and 4,600 acres of water, California’s Port of Long Beach handles more than 8 million TEUs every year, cargo which is worth in excess of $200 billion and delivered by more than 2,000 vessels.

8. Baton Rouge, LA

Total tons: 73.4 million

The Port of Greater Baton Rouge lies at the convergence of the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, providing easy access to the U.S. heartland via 15,000 miles of inland water transportation. 

9. Los Angeles, CA

Total tons: 63 million

The busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere, the Port of Los Angeles handles a hugely diverse range of commodities, from avocados to zinc and a whole lot in between. It is situated 25 miles south of downtown LA and spans 7,500 acres along 43 miles of waterfront.

10. Virginia, VA

Total tons: 61.7 million

Based in Norfolk, the Port of Virginia processes more than 4 million containers annually, including those brought over by ultra-large container vessels arriving from the other side of the Atlantic. It is the only East Coast port with congressional authorization for 55-foot-deep channels.

11. Lake Charles, LA

Total tons: 58 million

The Port of Lake Charles brands itself as a dynamic deep-water seaport at the center of the Gulf Coast. In recent years, more than $108 billion of industrial projects have been completed, announced or commenced in and around the complex. 

12. Mobile, AL

Total tons: 56.9 million

Mobile is the only deep-water port in Alabama. Located along the Mobile River, it has direct access to around 1,500 miles of inland and intercoastal waterways that serve the Great Lakes, Ohio and Tennessee river valleys and the Gulf of Mexico.

13. Plaquemines, LA

Total tons: 52.8 million

Nestled in the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal provides water-based access to some 33 U.S. states, serving key industrial sectors such as oil and gas, grain, coal and chemicals, among others.

14. Baltimore, MD

Total tons: 44.2 million

The Port of Baltimore offers the deepest harbor in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and is within an overnight drive of a third of the nation’s population. It has benefited greatly from the 2016 expansion of the Panama Canal, granting it access to a wider pool of large vessels. 

15. Savannah, GA

Total tons: 41.9 million

The Port of Savannah is within convenient reach of Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Memphis and Orlando. With 10,000 feet of contiguous berth space, it is one of the fastest growing container ports in the country.  

16. Texas City, TX

Total tons: 41.3 million

Although not the largest port in Texas, the Port of Texas City is a vital trading hub for crude oil imports and the export of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, chemicals and petroleum coke. It has been in operation for more than a century.

17. Huntington Tristate

Total tons: 36.8 million

The Port of Huntingdon Tristate is America’s most influential inland port. Centered on the Ohio River, it is also the largest river port in Virginia. 

18. Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, KY

Total tons: 36.6 million

The Ports of Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is an inland port complex that covers 226.5 miles of commercially navigable waterways on the Ohio River and Licking River. It is made up of more than 70 active terminals. 

19. Port Arthur, TX

Total tons: 33.9 million

Another jewel in the Texan crown, Port Arthur is based 19 miles from the Gulf of Mexico on the Sabine Neches Waterway. The site completed a significant expansion in 2000 that transformed it into an international facility for cargo shipping. 

20. Duluth-Superior, MN and WI

Total tons: 33.7 million

The twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, are located at the western part of Lake Superior and represent the farthest inland freshwater seaport in North America. They are home to 20 privately owned bulk cargo docks and an award-wining cargo terminal. 

21. St Louis, MO and WI

Total tons: 31.3 million

Spanning 6,000 acres, the Port of Metropolitan St Louis lies along 15 miles of Mississippi River frontage and has capacity to handle 150 barges a day. It is the second-largest inland port system in the United States. 

22. Tampa, FL

Total tons: 30 million

A well-known cruise terminal, Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest cargo tonnage port spanning a 5,000-acre footprint. It can handle ships carrying up to 9,000 TEUs and is flanked by a million square feet of warehouse space and 40-acre container yard. 

23. Freeport, TX

Total tons: 29.8 million

Port Freeport is undergoing a significant harbor channel improvement project to the tune of $295 million that Congress authorized in 2014. The upgrade, which is due for completion in 2025, will offer navigational improvements to calling vessels by deepening and widening the waterway. 

24. Richmond, CA

Total tons: 28.5 million

With roots in petroleum and liquid bulk cargos, the Port of Richmond has become Northern California’s most diversified cargo handler thanks to its expansion into dry bulk, break-bulk and containerized cargo handling. Having also increased its automobile processing facilities, Richmond today ranks No .1 among San Francisco Bay ports in vehicle tonnage.

25. Pascagoula, MS

Total tons: 25.8 million

The Port of Pascagoula is a deep-water port on the southeastern coast of Mississippi. It is split into two major sections–the east and west harbors–which are both home to several public and private cargo terminals. 

26. Valdez, AK

Total tons: 25.2 million

Our first entry from Alaska, the Port of Valdez is America’s farthest north ice-free port. It serves as the southern terminus of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and handles more than 1.5 million barrels of crude oil a day. 

27. Charleston, SC

Total tons: 24.6 million

The Port of Charleston is part of South Carolina Ports, which serves as a vital transit hub for many essential industries in the region, including automotive manufacturing, consumers goods, frozen exports, grain and tire manufacturing. South Carolina Ports generates tax revenue in excess of $1.1 billion every year.

28. Port Everglades, FL

Total tons: 24 million

Billed as Florida’s “powerhouse port,” Port Everglades is located in the heart of Greater Fort Lauderdale and the City of Hollywood. Each year, around $34 billion of economic activity is generated through the port.

29. Seattle, WA

Total tons: 23 million

The Port of Seattle was founded in 1911 and stands today as one of the largest container terminals on the West Coast. It has also grown to the largest “Left Coast” cruise port in terms of passenger numbers, with more than 200 annual departures to Alaska. 

30. Pittsburgh, PA

Total tons: 21.8 million

Encompassing 200 miles of commercially navigable waterways in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Port of Pittsburgh is made up of 203 terminals. It is a hugely important transit hub for coal, which makes up around 70% of all cargo passing through in terms of weight. 

31. Tacoma, WA

Total tons: 21.5 million

The Port of Tacoma generates $3 billion of economic activity annually and supports more than 40,000 jobs. As partners in the Northwest Seaport Alliance Tacoma and the Port of Seattle (No. 29) are together the fourth-largest container gateway in the country.

32. Portland, OR

Total tons: 19.4 million

Let’s just keep it in the Pacific Northwest, shall we? As Oregon’s largest port, the Port of Portland is a bustling hub comprising three airports, four marine terminals and five business parks. Grain, minerals, forest products and automobiles and the most common types of cargo passing in and out.

33. Oakland, CA

Total tons: 19.3 million

This Northern California port is located on the Oakland seafront and is equipped with an array of commercial buildings and industrial parks, as well as an airport. The port spans 1,300 acres and was founded in 1927.

34. Paulsboro, NJ

Total tons: 18.4 million

Situated on the Delaware River, the Port of Paulsboro is around 80 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its transfer of key commodities such as crude oil, petroleum products and asphalt. 

35. Jacksonville, FL

Total tons: 17.7 million

JAXPORT is Florida’s largest container port and one of the nation’s most prominent vehicle handling sites. It offers services to 140 ports in more than 70 countries and has many ties with trucking firms and rail links, including 40 daily trains via Class 1 railroads CSX and NS. 

36. Kalama, WA

Total tons: 17 million

Just 30 minutes north of Portland, the Port of Kalama is home to more than 30 companies and 1,000 people. It prides itself on being a business-friendly haven, with no state corporate or personal income taxes levied. 

37. Two Harbors, MN

Total tons: 16.9 million

Two Harbors is a port city in Minnesota. Although its port is relatively small, it transfers nearly 17 million tons of cargo on an annual basis. 

38. Marcus Hook, PA

Total tons: 16.7 million

The Port of Marcus Hook is located on the northwest bank of the Delaware River, where its main activities are receiving and refining crude oil, and the shipping of petroleum products.  

39. Philadelphia, PA

Total tons: 16.3 million

The Port of Philadelphia claims to be the fastest growing port in the United States. It handles trade worth $30.5 billion a year and stands as the largest refrigerated port in the country, helping it to generate more than 54,000 jobs.

40. Boston, MA

Total tons: 16 million

The Port of Boston is a major seaport located in Boston Harbor and adjacent to the City of Boston. It is the largest port in Massachusetts and has facilities dedicated to bulk cargo, petroleum, and LNG shipment and storage.

41. Honolulu, HI

Total tons: 14.3 million

In Hawaii, Honolulu Harbor serves as the state’s principle seaport and handles containers, dry and liquid bulk and breakbulk cargo. It also handles passenger and fishing vessels, with a foreign trade zone established at the Fort Armstrong Terminal.

42. Detroit, MI

Total tons: 13.3 million

The Port of Detroit is situated along the west bank of the Detroit River and is the largest seaport in the state of Michigan. Its 29 terminals process high-grade steel products, coal, iron ore, cement, aggregate and other road building commodities. 

43. Indiana Harbor, IN

Total tons: 12.2 million

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is based in the largest steel-producing region in North America and is home to 30 businesses, half of which are connected to the industry. The site spans almost 600 acres of land.

44. Mid-America Port Commission

Total tons: 12 million

The Mid-America Port Commission is the largest port district on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, serving 26 counties across three states. It transcends two major rivers and is flanked by three Class 1 railroads and four regional airports. 

45. Cleveland, OH

Total tons: 11.9 million

Billed as the premier port of the Great Lakes, the Port of Cleveland supports 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in annual economic activity in the region. Half of U.S. households and manufacturing plants are within an eight-hour drive. 

46. Vancouver, WA

Total tons: 11 million

The Port of Vancouver USA was established in 1912 and serves as a vital gateway for connecting Asia and South America to the U.S. midcontinent and Canada. The Washington state port has more than 50 industrial tenants, including companies specializing in wheat, mineral and liquid bulks, vehicles, and other cargos.  

47. Galveston, TX

Total tons: 11 million

Another entry from Texas, the Port of Galveston offers cruise, cargo and commercial facilities. It is one of the older Texan ports, beginning as a trading post in 1825 and since growing to more than 850 acres in size. 

48. San Juan, PR

Total tons: 10.4 million

Serving the capital of U.S. territory Puerto Rico, the Port of San Juan is comprised of 16 piers, of which half are used for passenger ships and half for cargo vessels. Its cargo facilities allow for more than 500,000 square feet of space for unloading and loading of goods. 

49. Chicago, IL

Total tons: 10 million

Commercial activities in Chicago date back to 18th century fur trading, with the modern history of the Port of Chicago beginning in 1921, when the state legislature approved the development of a deep-water port. Today, it operates as a key Great Lakes multimodal transit facility. 

50. Longview, WA

Total tons: 9.7 million

The Port of Longview has been operating since 1921, and today is home to eight marine terminals and industrial facilities spanning 835 acres along the banks of the Columbia River. Fertilizers, grain, heavy-lift cargo, logs, lumber, minerals, paper, pulp and steel are some of the main cargo categories passing through here.  

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