Each year, America’s ports handle millions of twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) containers holding cargo that is worth billions of dollars to the United States economy. These ports serve not only as an entries and exits to the U.S. but as a gateways to the rest of the world. From tax revenue to jobs, our ports are a vital part of the national economy.
While all ports work hard to process cargo quickly and efficiently, some excel above the rest. Whether they have modern equipment, green initiatives or strategic locations, these ports set the bar higher for all others.
1. Port of Los Angeles. With more than 5 million TEUs processed in 2018, the Port of Los Angeles is the No. 1 container port in the country. After breaking its own cargo record in 2017, Los Angeles again increased its TEUs in 2018, going from 4.7 million to 5 million. The port also holds the honor of being the No. 18 port in the world and the top-ranking U.S.-based port on the global list.
2. Port of Long Beach. The second port in the countdown and the second port located in California, the 3,200-acre Port of Long Beach processed more than 4.3 million TEUs in 2018. With nearly 90 percent of the port’s traffic coming from Asia, the Port of Long Beach is one of the top trade gateways with the continent.
3. The Port of New York and New Jersey. The Port of New York and New Jersey earned the No. 3 spot on the list for the second year in a row. Having been operated together by the New York Port Authority since 1948, the unified, bi-state ports comprise the third-largest port in the nation, and the busiest port on the East Coast. In 2018, their TEUs rose from 3.7 million to 4.1 million.
4. Port of Savannah. In 2018, the Port of Savannah grew its TEUs from 2.0 million to 2.2 million. It remains home to the single largest container port in North America and is the overall second-busiest container port in the United States.
5. Port of Houston. In a state where everything is bigger, the Port of Houston is the biggest port in Texas as well as the largest on the Gulf Coast. In 2018, the Port of Houston increased its TEUs from 1.7 million in 2017 to 1.8 million in 2018. This 25-mile port is also the leading breakbulk port in the U.S., processing 52 percent of project cargo on the Gulf Coast.
6. Port of Seattle. The Port of Seattle includes both the marine port, which boasts one of the largest container terminals along the entire West Coast, and Sea-Tac International Airport, which is one of the largest airports in the West as well. Part of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the Port of Seattle helps generate $4.3 billion a year in business revenues. In 2018, the port raised its TEUs from 1.2 million to 1.5 million.
7. Port of Norfolk. The 567-acre Port of Norfolk, which is the largest terminal in the Virginia Port Authority, processed 1.3 million TEUs in 2018, increasing from 2017’s 1.2 million TEUs.
8. Port of Richmond. Just nine miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Port of Richmond is ranked No. 1 in San Francisco Bay for both liquid bulk and automobile tonnage. Spanning 32 miles along the spectacular bay front, Richmond benefits from the vast network of Bay Area highways that surround the port.
9. Port of Cleveland. The third-largest port in the Great Lakes region, the Port of Cleveland is also the first major port of call for ships moving along to the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 2,300 mile span that provides access from the East Coast to more than 100 inland ports. The Port of Cleveland is within an eight-hour drive to half of all American households, businesses and manufacturers.
10. Port of Tacoma. Part of the Northwest Seaport Alliance with the Port of Seattle, the Port of Tacoma has become the fourth-largest container gateway in North America. The port increased its TEUs from 1.2 million to 1.3 million in 2018, and April 2019 was their busiest April ever.
11. Port of Charleston. South Carolina’s Port of Charleston grew from 1.1 million to 1.2 million TEUs in 2018. The port, which already contributes $53 billion in economic impact to the Palmetto State, will soon have the deepest channel on the entire East Coast.
12. Port of Oakland. The fifth-busiest container port in the U.S. still advocates for small business with their Social Responsibility Division (SRD). Founded in 2001, the SRD advocates for small, local businesses as well as any local or new businesses seeking to participate in port opportunities. Oakland’s port grew in TEUs from 978,597 in 2017 to more than 1 million in 2018.
13. Port of St. Louis/Illinois. The Port of St. Louis, which spans 70 miles along both sides of the Mississippi River, is strategically positioned within 500 miles of one-third of the U.S. population. The 17th largest port in the nation includes the Municipal River Terminal, which is the only public general purpose dock in the region west of the Mississippi.
14. Port of Miami. The closest deep-water port to the Panama Canal, PortMiami increased from more than 621,000 TEUs in 2017 to over 750,000 in 2018. The port also hosts 5.5 million cruise passengers each year and is the only port south of the Port of Virginia that can handle fully laden, 14,000-TEU vessels.
15. Port Everglades. Port Everglades remains one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, welcoming 3.8 million cruise and ferry passengers each year. But it’s also the 11th busiest container cargo port in America, having moved 1.1 million TEUs in 2018.
16. The Port of Philadelphia. The 300-year-old PhilaPort is expanding with the addition of two new super Post-Panamax cranes this past March and a fifth new crane scheduled to arrive by this summer’s end. The new additions come as part of the port’s $300 million terminal improvement projects. In an effort to be greener, PhilaPort plans to switch all operations to electricity and end all diesel emissions.
17. Plaquemines Port. Located just 20 miles south of the Port of New Orleans, Plaquemines is the closest port to open water along the Mississippi River. It provides water access to 33 inland states, all in a business friendly environment.
18. Port of Baltimore. The Port of Baltimore is now the No. 1 port on the entire East Coast for roll-on/roll-off cargo (ro/ro), as well as for forestry products. The port supports more than 37,000 direct jobs, with 101,880 other jobs directly related to port activities within the state of Maryland. The port is responsible for $3.3 billion in personal income and $2.6 billion in business revenues.
19. The Port of New Orleans. The fourth-largest port in the country, Port NOLA now generates one-in-five jobs in the state of Louisiana. Meanwhile, Port NOLA businesses pay an average of 41 percent more than the average local salary. Port NOLA also generates more than $100 million in annual revenue across its cargo, industrial real estate, rail and cruise businesses—all without the assistance of tax dollars.
20. Port of San Juan. The Port of San Juan operates of 16 piers in San Juan Bay in Puerto Rico: eight for cruise passengers, eight for cargo. The port includes the only bay on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, which is surrounded by land and used as a safe harbor for ships during hurricane season. The port is home to 6.9 kilometers of berthing space, with 10.2 hectares of storage space.
21. Port of Jacksonville. The Port of Jacksonville is Florida’s largest container port and one of the busiest vehicle-handling ports in the United States. Currently undergoing a harbor deepening project, the port is preparing for the future with brand new state-of-the-art cranes, terminal upgrades and many more improvements.
22. Port of Beaumont. Never heard of the Southeast Texas port? You should have, as it’s the fifth-largest port in the U.S. based on tonnage and the No. 1 strategic military outload port in the world. Beaumont benefits from being in the heart of crude oil country.
23. Port of South Louisiana. The Port of South Louisiana is the largest port in the U.S. in total throughput tonnage. It is also top ranked for both import and total tonnage in the country, as well as being the largest port in the Western Hemisphere, handling nearly 15 percent of all total U.S. exports.
24. The Port of Port Arthur. Located in Port Arthur, Texas, the Port of Port Arthur boasts of being prepared to process any type of breakbulk cargo and can handle any commodity west of the Mississippi River. The port, which underwent a major expansion in 2000, now features updated, in-demand equipment and features.
25. Port of Wilmington. A major produce port, the Port of Wilmington is home to the largest dockside cold storage facility in the U.S. and is the top fresh fruit and juice concentrate port on the continent. It is also the top port for bananas, and the No. 1 port of entry for Moroccan clementines.
26. The Port of Mobile. Dedicated in 1928, the Port of Mobile is the only deep-water port in the state of Alabama and the largest breakbulk forest products port in America. The port contributes $486.9 million in direct and indirect tax impact to Alabama each year and has a total economic value of $22.4 billion.
27. Port of Boston. The largest port in Massachusetts, the port of Boston broke records in 2018 with more than 298,000 TEUs shipped through its Conley Container Terminal. Also known as Massport, the port is responsible for nearly 120,000 jobs both directly and indirectly.
28. Port of Palm Beach. The 18th busiest container port in America, the Port of Palm Beach sees 80 percent of its cargo being exports to the Caribbean Islands. Each year, the port exports 900,000 tons or 100 percent of the sugar produced in the area.
29. Port of Wilmington. The North Carolina port, which is not to be confused with the Port of Wilmington in Delaware, spans 284 acres of land and nine berths. The port boasts more than 1 million square feet of covered storage and is located within 700 miles of more than 70 percent of the U.S. industrial base.
30. Port of Duluth-Superior. The “Bulk Cargo Capital” of the Great Lakes, the Port of Duluth-Superior is the farthest inland freshwater seaport in the U.S., serving as a major connection to Canada. With 49 miles of waterfront space and 20 privately owned docks, the port processes almost 900 vessels each year and 35 million tons of cargo.
31. Port of Detroit. The largest seaport in Michigan, the 80-acre Port of Detroit is the third-largest, steel-handling port in America. The port is home to 29 terminal facilities.
32. Port of Texas City. Situated in the Bay of Galveston, the Port of Texas City is the ninth-largest deepwater port in America—and it will soon be deeper as it is dropping to a 45-foot depth. The Port of Texas City is the fourth-largest port in Texas and is popular for shipping crude oil, chemicals and petroleum.
33. Port of Chicago. The Port of Chicago is an inland port positioned along the Calumet River. The 8,930,000-square-foot port offers 3,000 linear feet of ship berthing. Spanning 1,600 acres, the port also has storage along Lake Calumet and Lake Michigan.
34. Port of Two Harbors. Located along Lake Superior’s northern shore, Minnesota’s Port of Two Harbors is a deep draft commercial harbor. Initially developed as an iron ore processing establishment, today Two Harbors still deals primarily in iron ore and taconite, though they have added timber to their exports.
35. Port of Chester. Located on the west bank of the Delaware River, Pennsylvania’s Port of Chester is situated between PhilaPort and the Port of Wilmington. Privately owned by Penn Terminals, the Port of Chester prides itself on customer service and hard-working employees. The 80-scre port has 300,000 square feet of dry space and 2.85 million cubic feet of reefer space.
36. Port of Gulfport. For more than 300 years, the Port of Gulfport has been a popular spot for vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the port is the third-largest container port in the Gulf and the second largest importer of green fruit in the U.S. In addition to 6,000 feet of berthing space, the 300-acre deepwater port has 110 acres of open storage, and an additional 400,000 square feet of covered warehouse space.
37. Port of San Diego. The Port of San Diego is home to two terminals that span across 231 acres of land. Equipped to handle everything from temperature-controlled goods and perishables to produce and frozen goods, the port prides itself on specializing in handling high volumes of cold storage. With their streamlined processes, the port moves quickly and efficiently to eliminate waste and keep perishables fresher, longer.
38. Port of Hueneme. California’s Port of Hueneme may not be a household name, but it is earning a name for itself as a faster, less-congested alternative to the two nearest major ports in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hueneme processes more than $9 billion in cargo annually and produces more than 13,000 jobs for the greater Ventura County area.
39. Port of Tampa Bay. The Port of Tampa Bay is the largest cargo tonnage port in Florida, processing more than 37 million tons of cargo annually. The port specializes in bulk, containerized and general cargo. Tampa Bay is also one of the top fertilizer export ports in the world, and the largest steel handling port in the Sunshine State.
40. Port Freeport. Located in Freeport, Texas, Port Freeport is one of the nation’s fastest growing ports. It specializes in breakbulk and project cargo and recently installed a 110 MT Gottwald Mobile Harbor Crane to help speed processing of project cargo. The port plans to begin construction on a depth expansion this year that would drop it from 46 feet to 51-56 feet deep, making it the deepest port in the Lone Star State.
41. Port of Honolulu. The Port of Honolulu is both a tourist attraction and commercial harbor facility in one. The main Hawaiian island’s main port, Honolulu processes 11 million tons of cargo annually, part of which accounts for 80 percent of the state’s required goods.
42. Port of Everett. Washington state’s third-largest port handles much of Washington’s aerospace cargo. In fact, the port accommodates 100 percent of the oversized parts for five aerospace tanker programs. The port is the No. 2 export customs district in the state and No. 5 on the entire West Coast.
43. Port of Valdez. The northernmost ice-free port in the U.S. serves as the base of the trans-Alaska pipeline (TAPS). The Port of Valdez provides easy access to the interior of Alaska, Canada, the Pacific Rim and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
44. Port of Corpus Christi. The port’s straight, 47-foot deep channel serves as a gateway to the Gulf of Mexico and the rest of the United States. It also boasts the strongest open wharf on the Gulf, making the Port of Corpus Christi ideal for a variety of cargo. Due to its location, the port handles large quantities of energy products.
45. Port of Portland. Portland, Oregon’s port generates 27,000 local jobs and $1.8 billion in wages for workers in the state. The only deep-draft container port in Oregon has five berths and eight intermodal tracks within its 419-acre span.
46. Port of Kalama. The port in Southwest Washington employs more than 1,000 workers and is home to more than 30 companies. With a 43-foot deep draft navigation channel, the port sprawls for five miles along the Columbia River. The port has both shovel-ready and move in-ready facilities as well as an office park and easy access to a variety of transportation modes, including rail, highway and river.
47. Port of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. The 136-year-old Port of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky was recently expanded from 26 miles to 226.5 miles. With 129 active docks and terminals between Ohio and Kentucky, the new and improved port is now ranked 15th in the nation and is the busiest inland port in America.
48. Port of Huntington Tri-State. West Virginia’s largest river port—and the largest inland river port in the country—has a presence on the Scioto River, Big Sandy River and the Kanawha Rivers respectively.
49. Port of Pittsburgh. Port Pitt is the fourth-busiest inland port in America and the 23rd busiest port overall, handling around 9,000 barges annually. Port Pitt spans 12 counties and more than 200 miles of commercial waterways in Pennsylvania.
50. Port of Lake Charles. The Louisiana port was recently named the seventh-fastest growing port in the country by Forbes as well as the 12th busiest seaport in America. Comprised of two marine terminals and two industrial parks, the Port of Lake Charles is known for processing a wide variety of cargo including bagged rice and other food products, project cargoes, barite, metals and petroleum products.
A port’s success at increasing TEUs over previous years is a promising sign for our economy. More TEUs means faster processing times, saving money (and hopefully, raising profits) for everyone from the shipping company to the end user. As you have seen, these 50 ports have either raised their TEUs dramatically or worked hard to improve their facilities or equipment to make cargo processing more efficient for everyone.