New Articles


jersey ports


The South Jersey Port Corporation closed out 2021 with an all-time record-breaking cargo volume of 4,636,097 tons, a 54% increase over 2020, breaking the previous record by 6%.
“That’s the best in the history of the South Jersey Ports and we’re expecting 2022 to be a very strong year that may top 2021,” reported Andy Saporito, Executive Director and CEO of South Jersey Port Corporation at the monthly meeting of the Board of Directors. “This milestone is a testament to the skilled workers and partners who keep goods moving through the supply chain while our team seeks solutions to improve efficiency, attract business and build for the future. The ongoing collaboration with SJPC’s labor force and industry partners lifted the port to this extraordinary record during the challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Saporito.
The dramatic increases in tonnage came from nearly all the SJPC’s prime cargo sectors: steel, plywood, recycled metals, cocoa beans, cement, and gypsum. The lone laggard, sand exports, is expected to increase as the national infrastructure plan is implemented. Rebounding steel imports led the way with 2,399,076 tons, a 141% increase over 2020. The majority of this increase occurred at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal which moved 1,760,018 tons of steel slabs. Plywood import tonnage increased by 98% totaling 220,812 tons demonstrating the Camden terminals as a premiere plywood portal on the East Coast. Cocoa beans totaled 76,108 tons, a 36% increase verses 2020 totals. Exports of recycled metals increased by 10% and cement increased by 8%.
The number of ship days was 960 days compared to 549 ship days in 2020, a 75% increase. “Ship days is the number of days a ship is loading or unloading at its terminal” explained Kevin Duffy, Assistant Executive Director / Chief Operating Officer. “We’ve worked hard to ensure we continue to operate safely and efficiently to move the increased cargo and have space to meet our customers’ needs”.
Brendan Dugan, Assistant Executive Director / Director of Business Development, expects the cargo activity at South Jersey Ports to remain strong for the foreseeable future due to the national infrastructure plan and New Jersey’s leadership role in the $109 billion offshore wind industry. EEW Group, which is building a $300 million manufacturing plant at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal to provide the massive steel monopiles for the offshore wind farms along the entire eastern seaboard, will ultimately require 150,000 tons of imported steel annually to meet their customers’ demand.  To build on this momentum, SJPC is conducting a study of the Port of Salem, which is a smaller port just down river from Paulsboro that could become an important supply port for the local offshore wind support services industry.
“The challenge is to build the infrastructure to grow the port while operating more efficiently to meet current demands,” said Dugan.  South Jersey Ports received a $6 million grant to upgrade the rail infrastructure at one of their Camden terminals and a $9 million grant for wharf infrastructure improvements at the Salem Terminal. “We identified an old building that we might refurbish to put another 40,000 square feet of storage space online and meet long-term customer demands.”
“We continue to focus on upgrading technology and automation to optimize the fluid movement of cargo through our terminals and to ensure our customers’ storage and inventory needs are met”, added COO Kevin Duffy.
The South Jersey Port Corporation was created in 1968 to operate marine shipping terminals in the South Jersey Port District, consisting of seven counties: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Mercer, and Cape May. The South Jersey Ports is a national leader in bulk and breakbulk cargo, shipping and receiving to and from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Their four international seaport facilities in South Jersey handle more than four million tons of bulk, breakbulk and containerized cargoes annually.


Every day seems to bring about more bad news at our nation’s ports. In September, the government reported that auto sales fell because of chip shortages that left car dealers with few vehicles to sell. 

Now, more than ever, how a port communicates with the public and the businesses that rely on it is crucial, especially into the holiday shopping season. That port communication goes beyond just a well-designed website to include apps, social media, email alerts and newsletters all working together to communicate with one voice.

So, how should ports begin to think about their brand and their messaging to the public? 

As an agency specializing in branding and user experience (UX), we learned much through several key projects with the Port of Long Beach (POLB). The challenge was identifying and enabling key user tasks for each of the Southern California port’s audience segments. We designed a role-based dashboard that delivered an effective and streamlined user experience. Meanwhile, an improved content structure and organization made the port’s thousands of information resources easier for users to find and access.

What follows are tips for ports to improve the user experience of their websites and how best to work with an agency to achieve that.

Tip #1 – The Bar is Low, Which Creates Opportunity

Most port websites are average at best in terms of design, UX and content. The bar is very low. That creates a distinct opportunity for those ports that want to establish digital leadership. Thinking in terms of their “brand” presents numerous challenges for ports for many reasons, not least of which is the number of stakeholders involved. While working with POLB, we had a team of approximately 50 core stakeholders that were involved in most of the important reviews and decisions. Additionally, we worked with teams representing all of the port’s different internal groups: marketing, community relations, environment, security, IT, etc. 

Managing, coordinating and communicating with a large, diverse group of stakeholders and constituents is both art and science. Any port should make sure their agency partner has experience with this kind of “crowd control.” Because if not, it can quickly derail a project and add time and cost. A certain amount of political savvy also comes in handy as most port-related projects require some degree of coordination with the harbor commission and local government agencies. 

Tip #2 – Ports are More Democratic than Private Companies, That’s a Good Thing

Ports and all of our public-facing clients tend to be far more democratic than our private sector clients. That means they’re open to trying new things as long as there is consensus, rather than decisions being driven by one owner or a small team of partners, who can easily fall into group-think.

Of course, the democratic approach requires a little more time but we feel like we get better input and results working this way. This approach does, however, require some additional time in the schedule but delivers the advantage of creating a deep and comprehensive understanding of the input we receive from employees, partners and stakeholders. 

Tip #3 – Role-Based Resources

Most ports and their websites are accessed by the same types of users: truckers, port/dock workers, cargo owners, shippers, etc. Developing role-based entry points (i.e. “Click here for Trucker Resources”) will help users connect with the right content quickly. While we see that some ports make efforts to include these types of customer-oriented pages, they are often light on content and functionality that actually enhances the customer experience. It’s also crucial these pages are mobile-friendly since most port workers are accessing the website from a phone or tablet while in or around the port facility. 

Most port websites have hundreds, if not thousands of documents, forms and permits. When these informational resources are difficult to find, it will generate a high volume of unnecessary calls to the port’s call center. Making sure these basic items are easy to find and easy to access will go a long way in eliminating unnecessary customer frustration and calls that could have otherwise been avoided with a better customer experience online. 

This trend in the digital world—the idea of customer self-service—is critical in delivering the right experience online. So, make sure that all of these content elements are well-organized and easily accessible to customers of all types. Not only will this deliver a better experience for those customers, it will also create operational efficiency for ports that are always looking to do more with less. 

Tip #4 – Harbor Commission and Port Politics 

Let’s face it: Ports are political entities, so when you bring in creative partners, it’s vital to choose one that has experience working directly with port commissioners and who understand the nature of the port approval process. Our work with the POLB required frequent meetings with the harbor commissioners to keep them abreast of project decisions and developments. We also coordinated our efforts with the City of Long Beach mayor’s office and the various municipal organizations that fall within the city’s domain. 

That also means making key presentations in forums like public access TV and radio to discuss the strategy with the public. Knowing that this will be a part of the project and approval process allows us to plan ahead and tailor our approach to the unique needs of whatever harbor commission and/or port we are working with.

Tip #5 – Don’t Forget the Port is a Place 

Most ports are large, sprawling areas that encompass a vast amount of physical space. Given this fact, it’s somewhat ironic that many port websites lack an effective port map. For the POLB, we looked at a wide range of map styles and map data sources to identify the right blend of design and information. 

Ultimately, we ended up creating a semi-customized approach (as opposed to simply using Google Maps or MapQuestion right out of the box) so the map could be tailored to the specific needs of POLB customers. 

Tip #6 – Think Long and Hard About Content Volume and Content Migration

Most port websites contain a significant volume of content and have hundreds if not thousands of pages. One of the most critical aspects of any port website redesign is the content migration process. Because this process involves many different groups within the port deciding what content to migrate to the new site vs. content to retire or replace, it can take a significant chunk of time. 

Starting this process earlier in the project lifecycle is critical. In fact, getting the migration rolling at the beginning of the project makes the most sense. Most of our private sector clients don’t have nearly as much content nor does the content review for those private-sector clients generally involve as many stakeholders or checkpoints. With ports, there are communication guidelines, content accessibility/usability standards, regulatory reviews, legal reviews and stakeholder reviews. So, it’s best to get the migration going as soon as possible to ensure that it doesn’t hold up the rest of the design and development activities.

No one knows what the future holds for our logistical supply chain, but ports can ease the stress on everyone who interacts with the port by taking the time to think creatively and strategically about the experience their customers will have online. Think about it as more than just a website: It is a customer web portal. If those customers are coming to your site for information and leaving more stressed and no less informed, then your site is an epic fail. And that’s a fail you can’t afford as the economy continues to rebound.


Jason Widmann is director of Strategy, Creative and UX at Stellar Agency, a digital design shop based in El Segundo, California, that focuses on the design and development of digital products, services and platforms.



Ports throughout the U.S. have extremely critical infrastructure needs, and port officials in numerous states are readying projects for launch. America’s ports are in desperate need of modernization, expansion, upgrades and repairs if they are to remain viable. Because of the economic contributions that ports provide to the U.S. economy, officials can no longer ignore or defer these essential projects.

If, or when, Congress passes the infrastructure bill, billions in federal funding will be available, but even that amount of new revenue will likely not cover costs for the most critical needs. Most states have allocated large amounts of funding, and public-private partnerships are being considered for some port initiatives. 

Regardless of the funding sources, it is evident that port modernization, which is long overdue, is finally beginning rather aggressively in America.


Every Texas port must undergo critical upgrading and modernization. Approximately $3.6 billion will be required for the state to cover the most immediate needs at its ports. A 2022-2023 Texas Port Mission Plan outlines numerous high-value projects that are priorities.

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority is seeking $155.5 million for three liquid bulk dock projects at the Avery Point Terminal. The docks, with an average age of 56, are suffering from severe degradation of key components and cannot adequately accommodate large Suezmax vessels arriving at the same time.

The Port of Beaumont is planning a $61.6 million dock facility that will be capable of loading and unloading supersized vessels. The project will feature a pedestrian walkway, access roads and pipeline connectivity.

The Port of Galveston needs to spend $60.7 million to repair damaged and decaying infrastructure that is unusable. The scope of this project will include dredging, constructing two fill-retaining structures, improving storm sewers, installing flexible pavement and replacing a deteriorated bulkhead.


The Port of Oakland’s updated five-year capital improvement plan (CIP) outlines projects estimated at $543.7 million. Approximately $92.2 million is allocated for airfield projects that the port maintains. Critical security upgrades are estimated at about $57.8 million and will include work on access control gates, baggage claim exits and installation of an integrated landside security camera system

Approximately $27.2 million is needed for marine terminal improvements and crane upgrades. This effort will include $10.2 million for wharf upgrades that are now required for ultra-large container vessels and $8.5 million for reconstruction of berths at the port. Other projects considered high priorities include a channel deepening project, substation replacements and the installation of electric truck charging stations.

Down south, the Port of Long Beach approved a Fiscal Year 2022 budget that includes $622.4 million for the Long Beach Harbor, with half of that amount dedicated to capital improvement projects. A project to construct a second fire station will support the port’s fireboat vessels and its landside fire assets. It carries a projected cost of $35.6 million. An additional $38.4 million will be spent on improvements to wharfs and another $870 million is earmarked for the expansion of a rail yard. 

In 2022, construction will begin on a track realignment project that carries a cost estimate of approximately $40 million.


The Port Authority of Allegheny County introduced a 2022 operating and capital budget that details $53.4 million in projects. Anticipated initiatives include rail and bus facility improvements and the installation of electric charging infrastructure. Other port divisions will receive $1.7 million for systemwide upgrades of security and fire alarm systems. The Port Authority also approved its first range transportation plan, NEXTransit, that outlines 18 planned projects that cumulatively carry a $3.7 billion price tag.

The Port Authority of Pittsburgh plans to begin work in 2022 on a new two-level deck that will increase the available parking by 360 spaces. The authority has received an $11.5 million federal grant for the project. The construction project will be comprehensive as it will require moving the lot’s main entrance to the north, widening Route 19 to add turning lanes, and construction of retaining walls, drainage improvements and new paving work.

Scheduled to be completed in May 2022, a $42 million, 201,621-square-foot distribution center is a critical step in the development of the Port of Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, the region’s main container terminal. PhilaPort Executive Director and CEO Jeff Theobald boasts that the food-grade warehouse, which is one mile from the marine terminal, will help attract new shippers and ocean lines and “generate hundreds of good, family-sustaining jobs.”

These are just a few examples of upcoming contracting opportunities at ports throughout the country. Major ports in America are all in dire need of attention, and officials in every state where ports are located are well aware of the economic engines of ports. Funding will be found, and ports will be modernized in the very near future. Private sector firms interested in partnering to keep America’s ports operating at peak capacity should be getting positioned now to compete for these very large partnering opportunities.


Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., an Austin, Texas-based business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the country. Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is her recently released handbook for contractors, investors and the public-at-large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

south ports detention reshoring


Port managers have tried, mightily, to cope with the pandemic’s shockwaves. They have been simultaneously caught up in an avalanche of challenges: trade wars, the pandemic, port congestion and labor and shipping container shortages. Providing as they do the key infrastructure to international trade and the global economy, shipping and ports are estimated to handle more than 80% of global goods trade by volume and over 70% by value. 

International maritime trade volumes were estimated to have fallen by 4.1% in 2020, but all of the expert projections suggest that they’ll not recover at any time before the end of this year. During the pandemic, ports have had to adjust to the reality of lower volumes, worker shortages, the implementation of occupational health and safety measures for dockers and shore personnel, and the adoption of teleworking and remote operations for office workers.

The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has left no port unaffected while exacerbating certain existing challenges. Ports have been heavily impacted by developments in the shipping sector, where some shipping lines have gone into “survival mode,” affecting container and cargo markets, with knock-on effects that may be felt for years to come. The volatility may push some ports to reassess their business models.

Although the pandemic has strengthened the case for further investment in digitalization and innovation, ports are under intense pressure to reduce costs and be more attractive to the supply chains that use their infrastructure. For example, a survey commissioned by the International Association of Ports and Harbors found that 69% of surveyed ports indicated that the majority of their investment plans had been delayed or amended.

Port officials across the country are not wallowing in the gloom and doom. They don’t have time to. No, they are looking ahead to a 2022 filled with strategies to cure (or at least address) what ails them . . . and lies ahead.

Wanted: Congestion Relief 

At Morgan Stanley’s ninth annual Laguna Conference, a virtual gathering in mid-September of transportation and logistics industry leaders, Expeditors International of Washington’s management was quoted stating that they had never before seen capacity “so scarce in both air and ocean at the same time.”

Looking to the future, Expeditors expects the environment to “remain unsettled as long as constrained capacity and other disruptions, such as port congestion, the uneven lifting of pandemic-restrictions and rising fuel costs continue to impact the movement of freight.” 

A month after that conference, a backlog of ships remained idle off the Southern California coast waiting for their turn to dock, a visual that beachgoers had taken in for the past several months before. And federal regulators at press time were investigating whether the cause of a massive, beach-clearing oil slick was caused by a container ship anchor ripping into a pipeline. 

On Oct. 12, 58 container ships were at anchor or adrift off the shoreline, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. The following day, President Joe Biden announced a deal to keep the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles open 24/7 to alleviate the severe bottlenecks. 

Providing more time for trucks to pick up and return shipping containers to improve freight movement and reduce delays through the port complex is the main strategy of the Biden plan, although exact details were still being worked out at press time. As Biden and Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka both mentioned, systemic change of such magnitude will necessitate many supply chain stakeholders to work in tandem.

“The significance of today’s announcement is the commitment from industry leaders responsible for moving goods on behalf of American consumers and businesses to open up the capacity needed to deliver,” wrote Seroka in an email, as reported by the online news site Long Beach Post. “It’s a call to action for others to follow.”

That call is certainly not being ignored by Seroka’s partner in maritime, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, who wrote in a statement of his own, “Before this unprecedented cargo surge began, we believed 24/7 operations were the future. After all, consumers can shop online at any time, whether it’s at 4 p.m. or 4 a.m., and 24/7 is already the standard at our partner ports in Asia. The supply chain truly never stops now.”

Indeed, a month before Biden blew into town, Total Terminals International container terminal on Pier T in Long Beach launched a pilot program that makes it easier for trucks to access the facility during the overnight hours.

“Our waterfront workforce is moving cargo as quickly as possible as we continue to collaborate with stakeholders from throughout the goods movement industry to develop solutions for our capacity challenges,” says Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal. “This cargo surge is anticipated to last well into 2022, so we need to start thinking of new ways to meet the expected growth in goods movement and rising consumer demand.”

Labor Pain Relief, Too, Please

An insatiable demand for new products is part of the blame for port congestion, which is complicated by “the overarching challenge on the labor front,” J.B. Hunt officials reported during the Laguna Conference. “There are times when certain ports or terminals close for periods of time, creating significant whipsaws in the supply chain. The sooner that cargo can get into warehouses or on the shelf, the sooner capacity is freed up, and that is a major component of what is going on in the system.”

Officials from competitor Werner Enterprises echoed that “on the supply side, the driver issue is expected to remain a problem for a while (potentially exacerbated by vaccine mandates–management estimates less than half of the broader driver population is vaccinated) and the equipment problem looks to actually be getting worse.” 

However, there is some silver lining to all the gloom and doom. An especially strong holiday shopping season to end topsy-turvy 2021 may lessen the sting of expected underperformance into at least early 2022, the Werner team reported. 

Union Pacific officials, who are also dealing with slow unloading of containers due to port and driver labor issues, noted that “while there are structural issues in that system, there is also capacity to staff up and get trucks in place. The West Coast ports are also looking to put things into place (automation, union deals, etc.) to get the network moving smoother.”

Investment in new technology seems to be the answer to everything along the supply chain these days, and the port’s portion is no exception. San Francisco tech company Vector claims its electronic bill of lading solution can get drivers in and out of facilities more quickly, to the tune of 43 minutes of drive time. 

How huge is that? Mega-huge. According to David Correll, co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Freight Lab, if drivers get just 12 minutes back toward driving, the “truck driver issue” could be solved.

Rebuild, Remodel, Rehabilitate, Rebound 

Biden pivoted during his 24/7 announcement to promote his landmark infrastructure bill, which includes $17 billion for port infrastructure, or the “biggest investment in our ports in our history.”

However, with Republicans balking at the bill’s $4.5 trillion cost (at this writing) and infighting among Democrats over whether to trim or not to trim the price tag to make it more palatable, the legislation remains tied up in Congress (ditto).

It’s a shame, to hear Seroka tell it. He claims West Coast ports have experienced more than a decade of underinvestment by the federal government and that had better change to address the influx/lack of movement of cargo. 

Of course, ports around the country are not waiting on the government to make major infrastructure improvements. For a deeper dive on many of these, see the story elsewhere in this issue by Mary Scott Nabers, president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc. But for improvements with an eye toward sustainability, we look to the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA), whose board of directors recently approved the creation of a funding mechanism for six new projects that will reduce current air emissions and improve rail access for in-state businesses. 

A new transloading/cross-dock facility adjacent to the Union Pacific Intermodal Railyard will offer international and domestic cargo stakeholders a cost-effective and efficient inland alternative option by leveraging existing infrastructure and Union Pacific’s services and proximity to the rail ramp in Salt Lake City, according to the UIPA. An investment-grade business case analysis commissioned by the UIPA identified at minimum the three California port gateways—Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland—for the transloading facility to compete with for international cargo volumes.

The transload facility will be constructed with eco-friendly building materials and include sustainable construction technology, increased water and energy efficiency, reduced waste and emissions and improved indoor environmental quality, according to the UIPA.

The port authority is also seeking to acquire an easement across a privately-owned landfill to open up rail access north of Interstate 80, an existing rail spur and test track that connects to a short line, and the blessing of Salt Lake County officials to provide additional freight connectivity by building out 7200 West from State Route 201 to 700 North.

The UIPA is working with partners to develop a renewable fueling station for private and/or public use that will serve hydrogen, electric and liquid and compressed natural gas vehicles, and with the Department of Homeland Security to reassign agents to Utah for a customs bonded facility with rail access, loading docks for bonded warehousing and storage capacity.

“All these projects are designed to address gaps currently in Utah’s logistic system, which is the primary role of the port authority,” said Jack Hedge, UIPA executive director. “Providing this underlying infrastructure supports the entire ecosystem of the jurisdictional area–from a logistics standpoint, to the environment, to the community–everyone benefits.”

Let’s Be Careful Out There

The Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) also has coming improvements aimed at maintaining the Florida facility’s ranking as the 10th busiest container port in the U.S. by TEUs and among the nation’s top vehicle-handling ports. But JAXPORT also has security on its mind, as demonstrated by a new program that brings together tenants, vessel operators, rail and intermodal stakeholders, key vendors, and local public sector organizations.

To address a national priority initiative of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Captain of the Port, JAXPORT has partnered with the nonprofit Maritime Transportation System Information Sharing and Analysis Center to form a new cybersecurity information sharing cooperative called the Northeast Florida Maritime Information Exchange (NEFL-MIX). 

“Cybersecurity is a critical part of supply chain security,” says JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “We are thrilled to launch this important initiative to protect our maritime community from cyber threats and ensure that our port-related businesses can continue to do the important work they do to keep cargo moving and people working throughout Northeast Florida.”

JAXPORT’s involvement does not surprise Christy Coffey, vice president of Operations with for the Maritime Transportation System Information Sharing and Analysis Center. “They have been influential in the design of our Information Exchange program and an active contributor to our [center] since inception,” she says, “so it’s rewarding to see the NEFL-MIX become reality. This busy port has included a diverse group of stakeholders in their cybersecurity information exchange. We know that under JAXPORT’s thoughtful leadership, the NEFL-MIX will positively impact both cybersecurity preparedness and response.”



Moments after leading a press conference to herald the opening of the Long Beach Container Terminal at Middle Harbor on Aug. 20, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero is chatting up a certain magazine editor who asks if the $1.5 billion facility will speed up offloading the convoy of cargo vessels currently anchored off the California coast awaiting berth slots.

“That’s the hope,” says the ever-congenial Cordero before he recalls a recent phone call between his wife and a friend who resides down the coast in upscale Newport Beach. 

“Let me speak with your husband,” the friend demanded, and after Cordero got on horn she sternly asked, “What are you doing about all these ships in the water? They’re an eyesore!” 

Ensuring beautiful, unobscured views for coastal residents is not normally found in seaport chief’s job description, but the ever-resourceful Cordero had an answer for the refined lady:

“You know how to make the ships go away? Stop shopping.”


Naturally, the Fashion Island shopping sprees have not ended any sooner than everyone else’s retail therapy, virtual or otherwise. Even before a global pandemic jolted the supply chain, ports around the planet were in the expanding and modernizing mode, especially with the arrival of ever-larger cargo vessels and the need to move more goods by on-dock rail due to concerns about truck emissions and dwindling driver rosters. 

The thing about being competitive is . . . there is always someone else being competitive. Already responsible for 2.6 million direct and indirect jobs across America, the Port of Long Beach has stepped up its game with a 300-acre, completely electric terminal that can handle up to 3.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and by itself would rank as the sixth busiest container port in the country. 

While truly spectacular to behold—as you will discover if you read to the end—the LBCT, as the hip kids call it, is but one of many port enhancement projects happening around the world. What follows are just some—with estimated price tags that would even raise a Neiman Marcus shopper’s manicured brow.

South Carolina port expansions

$985 million (and another $5 billion likely on the way)

To open the first terminal in the nation since 2009, crews in North Charleston, South Carolina, dealt with challenging site conditions, waterways, motorists and even . . . gulp . . . bombs. That’s because the Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal occupies a former naval base that was used as an airfield during World War II, opening up the possibility of previously undetonated ordnance going “BOOM!” on former training grounds.

It’s full speed ahead for Leatherman as entities up and down the East Coast scramble to expand port capacity to accommodate larger ships from the widened Panama Canal. The new terminal includes a 1,400-foot berth and yard that can accommodate 19,000 TEU ships, with a capacity of 700,000 TEUs, for the Port of Charleston. Five ship-to-shore cranes that were delivered in 2020 are now the tallest in South Carolina. 

At full buildout, Leatherman will have three berths, cover 286 acres of area and include about 3,500 linear feet of marginal wharf, with a channel depth of 52 feet. Ultimate capacity will be 2.4 million TEUs, or roughly double what the deepest water port on the East Coast previously handled. After welcoming its first container on March 30 and first ship on April 9, Leatherman helped its port attain record numbers in May and be honored the following month as the 2021 South Carolina Project of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ state section. 

Meanwhile, the port authorities of South Carolina and Georgia are negotiating to jointly operate a $5 billion terminal in Jasper County, South Carolina. Operating on a 1,500-acre site that’s 8.5 miles downstream from Garden City, Georgia, the Jasper Ocean Terminal would have the capacity to transfer 8 million TEUs a year and meet the Southeast’s cargo demand through at least mid-century. The Washington Post recently reported that Jasper would create 900 direct jobs with an estimated $81 million payroll, 1 million high-paying jobs nationwide between 2040-50 and $9 billion in revenue for the two states. South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), who has been working on the project for nearly 20 years, recently put it best when he told the Hilton Head Island Packet, “This makes all the economic sense in the world.” 

Georgia Ports Authority Peak Capacity project

$525 million

With the Port of Savannah seeing a 25 percent increase in TEUs handled in July, its Garden City Terminal breaking container trade records for nine out of the past 10 months by that time, the Port of Brunswick experiencing a 39 percent jump in auto and machinery units passing through in July (with ro-ro records of its own in four out of the 10 months)—and demand expected to just keep rising through the end of the year—expansion is required merely to keep up.

Which explains GPA expediting its Peak Capacity project to add 700,000 TEUs over two phases beginning this fall. Then, in March 2022, a Garden City Terminal chassis storage facility will open on a 25-acre parcel along Georgia State Route 21. The expansion wagon rolls on in 2023, when improvements of Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal are expected to be completed and 92 more acres of land will be added to up capacity by 750,000 TEUs. 

The berth project, which also includes the purchase of eight new ship-to-shore cranes, will allow the Port of Savannah to simultaneously serve four 16,000-TEU vessels as well as three additional ships. Rail lift capacity is expected to double to 2 million TEUs annually thanks to the Mason Mega Rail Terminal project at a port that already handled 9.3% of total U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.5% of all American containerized exports in fiscal year 2020.

Expansion cannot come soon enough for GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch, who last spring remarked, “Right now, we are moving container volumes that we did not expect to see for another four years.” 

Tanzanian ports’ expansion and creation 

$500 million+ (and another $10 billion possibly on the way)

During Xi Jinping’s maiden foreign tour shortly after he became China’s president in March 2013, he and then-Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete watched over the signing of a framework agreement between the East African nation and China Merchants Holdings International. Under terms of the deal, China’s largest port operator would build a new $10 billion port in Bagamoyo, which is about 47 miles north of the thoroughly congested Dar es Salaam Port, Tanzania’s largest. 

However, negotiations stalled—until the country’s current President Samia Suluhu Hassan said during a recent gathering of the Tanzania National Business Council, “Regarding the Bagamoyo Port project, let me give you the good news that we have started talks to revive the whole project.”

If what is currently planned at Bagamoyo comes to pass, that port would dwarf the Port of Mombasa, which is nearly 320 miles to the north in neighboring Kenya and is currently East Africa’s main gateway. But Dar es Salaam Port has steadily undergone expansion and modernization that is also aimed at overtaking Mombasa. Work has included the strengthening and deepening of seven berths, including a ro-ro terminal that has already allowed the Tranquil ACE Panama to call with 3,743 vehicles aboard. Expanding and dredging the ship entrance channel, turning circle and harbor basin are expected to be completed soon.

Tanzania Ports Authority, which oversees Dar es Salaam, also has strengthening, deepening and construction going on at the ports of Mtwara and Tanga. A new port in Karema is due for completion in March 2022 and, in addition to Bagamoyo, the government is exploring building new ports in Mbamba-bay, Manda and Matema. 

Port of Virginia dredging, widening and more

$350 million

Growing business at the Port of Virginia in Norfolk set the stage for the project that includes dredging commercial channels that serve the Norfolk Harbor to accommodate super-size cargo vessels as well as widening channels to allow for two-way traffic.

The port is also doubling capacity at the Norfolk International Terminals railyard and aiming to become Virginia’s wind industry hub by leasing 70 acres of land at its Portsmouth Marine Terminal to Dominion Energy. Portsmouth is to be used as a staging space to deploy equipment for building massive wind turbines by Dominion, which plans to build its $7.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind farm 27 miles off Virginia Beach’s coast with 180 giant propellers.

The Port of Virginia work “speaks directly to our customers, the ocean carriers,” port spokesman Joe Harris tells reporter Elizabeth Cooper in an Aug. 30 Virginia Business article. “In two years, you are going to be able to bring in bigger ships and bigger ships with more cargo.”

Port of Antwerp’s Europa Terminal expansion

$304.6 million

To keep up with rising demand, the Port of Antwerp authority in 2010 approved a 15-year, 1.6-billion-euro investment plan that would capitalize on a shuttered General Motors factory. And by the end of this year, the first phase of the three-phase, nine-year Extra Container Capacity Antwerp (ECA) project begins with a goal of optimizing existing capacity. 

Upon completion, expansion of the port’s Europa Terminal will allow two mega-max ships to operate simultaneously. That terminal’s current, 1,200-meter quay wall will be completely demolished, and the adjacent front quay will feature new flooring, shoreside power hookups and the installation of large container cranes.

“Containers are the most important segment at our port and a growth segment in the world; our yearly figures in 2020 prove this once again,” Port of Antwerp spokesman Lennart Verstappen recently told Port Technology. “And the trend toward more containers for transporting goods will only continue. This deepening is in line with our ambition to continue to grow as a port in a sustainable way and will contribute toward maintaining our position as a world port.”

Port Freeport Harbor Channel Improvement Project

$295 million

For an example of how government works slowly, we travel to Texas, where widening and deepening the channel at Port Freeport received initial congressional approval in 2014. The final chunk of joint funding arrived thanks to a 2018 voter initiative. And just when you thought the project was languishing, Port Freeport became one of two seaports nationwide to receive a “new start” designation in February 2020 for commencement of construction. 

The ceremonial groundbreaking for the Freeport Harbor Channel Improvement Project was finally held this past April 8—and not a moment too soon. The region’s ongoing industrial expansion fueled by the production of shale oil and gas, as well as the port’s proximity to fast-growing populations, necessitated late inning fast-tracking. The project should prolong Freeport’s status as a leader in the export of crude oil, natural gas liquids and chemicals as well as the create more jobs (279,780, per a 2019 Economic Impact Study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute) and total economic output ($149 billion; ditto).

Widening and deepening for today’s mega-fleets will take about five years to complete, which will coincidentally coincide with the 100th anniversary of Port Freeport being created by the voters of Brazoria County, who in 1925 recognized the importance of diverting the Brazos River so the region would have a reliable, deep-water port for the movement of commerce. “I am grateful to those who had the bold vision and fortitude to divert the Brazos River to give this area a deep-water port advantageous for economic prosperity,” says the port’s CEO Phyllis Saathoff, who obviously recognizes it takes a village and leadership when she adds, “Now it is our turn to deliver the deep-water port for future generations. . . . Our region will greatly benefit from this project, as well as our local, state, and national economies.”

Port of Baltimore dredging

$122.1 million

These days, you don’t see members of opposite parties shaking hands let alone rubbing elbows (thanks, COVID). But Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan and the nation’s Democratic Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came together on July 29 to marvel at the recently expanded and improved upon Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.

Thanks to dredging operations completed in April to create a second, 50-foot deep container berth at Seagirt Marine Terminal, the port will be able to accommodate two ultra-large ships simultaneously by the end of this year. The project was hailed for receiving the kind of bipartisan support that the Biden administration was seeking at the time for the $4.5 trillion infrastructure plan that the House narrowly passed in late August.

As Buttigieg toured the port’s Dundalk Marine Terminal, Hogan remarked, “Truly, you could not have picked a better stop for your first port visit as transportation secretary, and your visit could not be more timely.”

Buttigieg noted that the infrastructure bill had a “blue-collar blueprint,” citing the example of the expansion of Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel to accommodate double-stacked rail cars moving cargo to and from the port and improving capacity from Charm City to rail lines along the entire East Coast. “So much of what we buy and sell is flowing through ports like the one we’re at right now,” he said. “Top of the line machinery, made in America.”

SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal berth enhancements

$104 million

Like the Baltimore project, the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) improvements at Blount Island, where 700 linear feet of newly rebuilt deep-water berthing space was added, are the result of a public-private partnership. JAXPORT and SSA Atlantic are also making yard improvements and deepening the harbor.

Upon completion, the facility will feature two newly reconstructed 1,200-foot-long container berths capable of simultaneously accommodating two post-Panamax vessels. The berths are electrified to handle a total of 10 state-of-the-art environmentally friendly electric-powered 100-gauge container cranes, including three currently in use.

“These projects all work together to maximize Jacksonville’s logistics advantages for our customers and bring more jobs and business to Northeast Florida,” says Eric Green, CEO of the Sunshine State’s largest container port that’s also one of the nation’s top vehicle-handling ports. 

Port of Long Beach Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project
$1.5 billion

Under skies that were unusually dark and cloudy for summer in Southern California, Cordero, the Port of Long Beach executive director, manned a podium facing what appeared to be as many TV news cameras as breathing beings. 

“Here we have the Amazon state of mind,” he says. “And what does that mean? Create efficiencies, reliability and in the age of e-commerce, obviously consumers expect things tomorrow, and the supply chain is in a full-court press to create greater efficiencies. So certainly, for us at the Port of Long Beach, it was well worth the investment of $1.5 billion for what you see here this morning.”

As if on cue, Cordero is upstaged by unmanned cranes, gantries and vehicles ever so diligently moving cargo containers off the massive COSCO Andes that is docked behind him.

“Efficiency is everything,” Anthony Otto, the LBCT’s CEO, says during his trip to the podium. “We designed the yard so that we can move more TEUs per acre.” While a traditional container terminal typically handles 6,000 to 8,000 TEUs per acre, LBCT can process 12,000 to 15,000 TEUs per acre. “It makes us, the Port of Long Beach and every link in our supply chain more competitive,” Otto says.

The terminal includes a container yard, an administration building and an on-dock rail yard designed to handle 1.1 million TEUs annually and minimize truck traffic on local roads and freeways. Additionally, 14 of the most modern ship-to-shore gantry cranes line a new, 4,200-foot-long concrete wharf capable of welcoming three massive ships at once. 

“By any measurement, be it berth productivity, be it speed of trucks through our gates or the velocity of our rail system, which is the largest in North America, we have definitely set the bar for our industry,” Otto says. “Additional capacity means more cargo, which means more supply chain jobs, which means a strengthening of our regional and national economy. More land, more cranes, more berth capacity, just more of everything needed to better service the goods movement industry and to maintain the Port of Long Beach as the preferred gateway into the United States.”

He later alluded to the sight that irked that Newport Beach lady. “If you notice the ships that are anchored off shore, this additional capacity is badly needed right now. Trade is strong, and the capacity that we are adding here is really something that’s coming just in the nick of time.”



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.  

ports Fuentes


While maritime trade can be traced back to ancient civilizations in previous millennia, sea freight and ports have never been more important than they are today.

The lifeblood of global commerce, seaports handle almost 811 million TEUs every year, supporting industries of all shapes and sizes all over the world. Indeed, many of the United States’ maritime logistics hubs are some of the largest, their associated economic development corporations (EDCs) having helped to accelerate their growth and value to regional, national and global economies.

In this 2021 roundup of 15 U.S. port cities, we analyze the role of some of the country’s key logistics hubs—as well as the role their economic development engines play in ensuring their continual progression.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is arguably the West Coast’s most important intermodal transport hub, the beating heart of which is the Port of Los Angeles–a seaport covering 7,500 acres of land and water along 43 miles of waterfront. It is the nation’s No. 1 container port, with its state-of-the-art facilities seeing it move 9.2 million TEUs in 2020. Port of Los Angeles also adjoins to the Port of Long Beach, another one of the busiest seaports in the world, moving around 7.5 million TEUs every year. Both ports are supported by the efforts of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the regional EDC combining economic research with industry programs, workforce development, business assistance and policy changes that promote a thriving local economy, for which these two ports are vital. 

New York City, New York

New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) is the EDC for the nation’s most highly populated city, home to more than 8 million people. A mission-driven non-profit, it aims to support the city by creating prosperity through investing in neighborhoods, building sustainably, creating workforce opportunities and advancing company growth. In achieving these goals, it works closely with the Port of New York and New Jersey. Recently, it has been helping to develop a visionary freight system, supported the major South Brooklyn Marine Terminal project and completed a 2019 survey of the NYC and NJ maritime community. “Through PortNYC and other initiatives, we’re working to ensure both the long-term health of the maritime industry in NYC and the city’s economy as a whole,” NYCEDC states.

New Orleans, Louisiana

With the simple mission of creating a region with a thriving economy and an excellent quality of life, Greater New Orleans (GNO) pursues a two-pronged strategy as the EDC for the region. This includes helping to attract, retain and develop key businesses (Business Development), and propose, promote and facilitate policies and programs that improve business conditions (Business Environment). Such efforts have assisted in securing a new ground-breaking Lineage Logistics project at the Port of New Orleans, the organization having committed $42 million to the expansion of the Jourdan Road cold-storage facility in New Orleans East in April 2021. “The cold-storage complex at Jourdan Road along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal will grow from 160,000 square feet to 304,000 square feet,” an announcement from GNO reads.

Oakland, California

While Oakland is home to fewer than half a million people, its maritime logistics hub–Port of Oakland–is renowned as a key gateway to U.S. commerce. It oversees 1,300 acres of maritime-related facilities serving a local market of more than 14.5 million consumers, with 34 million people located within a seven-hour drive of its facilities. Supporting Port of Oakland’s thriving economic activity is the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (EDA). The two have an intertwined relationship, the EDA having previously supported harbor dredging activities in 1991 and 2009, and assisted stakeholders in resolving the transportation impacts created by the port’s growth in 2003. In 2020, it also recognized the port at its Innovation Awards for its significant contributions as a long-standing generator of jobs and economic vitality in the region.

Norfolk, Virginia

The city of Norfolk, Virginia, is home to a vibrant intermodal transport scene, in large part thanks to a formidable maritime history centered around the enormous naval base on Chesapeake Bay and the Port of Virginia. The port boasts of the largest percentage of rail arrivals and departures on the East Coast, is directly responsible for nearly 40,000 jobs, and managed 2,327 vessel calls and departures in 2019, equating to around 3 million TEUs and 55 million tons of cargo worth almost $75 billion. The Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (EDA) has long assisted both domestic and international firms wishing to invest in the Norfolk area, offering three lucrative tax incentives to companies using the port: The Port Volume Increase Tax Credit, Barge and Rail Use Tax Credit and International Trade Facility Tax Credit.

Savannah, Georgia

The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) is the EDC for Savannah, its goal being to help create, grow and attract new job opportunities and investment in the region. It attracts and supports a variety of organizations through customized services that include anything from infrastructure and real estate opportunities to incentives and tax abatements. Much of Savannah’s draw stems from the Port of Savannah, where 85% of the world’s top 3PLs operate in Georgia. To maintain this competitive advantage, SEDA actively supports several logistics-related projects, including the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, the Mid-American Arc Initiative & International, and The Center of Innovation for Logistics for the state of Georgia.

Houston, Texas

Originally founded in 1840, the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) strives to make the region the best place to live, work and build a business, serving a thousand-member companies and 7.1 million people in the 12-county Houston region. It is a fervent supporter of the Port of Houston, hosting an annual State of the Port conference, outlining the logistics hub’s performance, future growth opportunities and capital investment plans to regional economic players. The overall impact of the port on a national level includes 3.2 million jobs, $801.9 billion in economic value and more than $38.1 billion in tax revenue. “As the largest port in foreign tonnage in the nation, Port Houston is an economic engine supporting the Houston region, the state of Texas, and the nation,” GHP states. 

Tampa, Florida 

The Tampa Bay Economic Development Council (EDC) has remained the designated economic development agency for Hillsborough County for 12 years, also serving the surrounding cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace. Currently it is delivering upon a 2020-2022 strategic action plan geared toward achieving business development, talent attraction and placemaking. As part of this vision, the EDC provides several incentives to business, creating high-wage jobs in high-value industries. In terms of its engagements with the ports, logistics and supply chain industry, it supports those organizations seeking real estate opportunities not only at the Port of Tampa Bay, but equally in Port Redwing and Port Ybor. 

Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City is extremely well connected, in large part thanks to what is North America’s largest inland port–the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. Located in the Joilet and Elwood area, it is a 6,400-acre, master-planned intermodal development which handles approximately three million TEUs every year. The site is also home to more than 30 economic powerhouse tenant companies that between them occupy over 14 million square feet of space. The Chicago Regional Growth Corporation plays a key role in supporting the city and region’s buoyant logistics activities, priding itself on a “history of working together” with key partners to developed projects leading to growth, investment and the creation of quality jobs.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Port of Philadelphia, also known as PhilaPort, holds several impressive accolades. Not only is it the fastest growing port in the U.S., having achieved a 7% increase in container volumes in 2020. Equally, it generates roughly 55,000 jobs for the local region, handles 6.4 million metric tons annually, is the largest refrigerated port in the country and helps to generate $30.5 billion in trade every year. The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC) continues to play a crucial role in helping the port to reach new heights. The city’s EDC, the PIDC has leveraged $30 billion in total investment and assisted in retaining and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in Philadelphia since its foundation 62 years ago. The local seaport industry’s latest venture, announced March 2021, will see the development of a $23 million distribution center that is set to add more than 200,000 square feet of flexible, food-grade storage within one mile of Packer Avenue Marine Terminal.

Mobile, Alabama

The Port of Mobile is a significant contributor to the city’s economy. Indeed, the figures speak for themselves. According to the Alabama State Port Authority, its economic impact includes roughly 155,000 direct and indirect jobs, $559.3 million in direct and indirect tax impact, and a total economic value $25.4 billion. The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) has supported the growth of these numbers over many years, having worked to support companies compete not only locally but on a global stage. The EDPA helps various free trade zones (FTZs) to flourish while also providing tax incentives, support for startups and management of the region’s transport links that are vital to its intermodal abilities and more. 

Matagorda County, Texas

Matagorda County is privileged enough to be the home of two ports: Port of Bay City and Port of Palacios. The former has approximately 150 acres of land available for commercial development, providing access to the Colorado River Channel, while the latter equally provides opportunities and parcels for long-term lease and development. Both ports are backed by the Matagorda County EDC that provides key economic contributors with incentives including employee recruitment and training, tailored services to help locate or expand, tax abatement policies and tax-free industrial and environmental bonds.

Baltimore, Maryland

The City of Baltimore is home to one of Maryland’s four FTZs. Serving as the administrator of the FTZ is the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), which is  mandated to grow the city’s economy in an inclusive manner by retaining, expanding and attracting businesses and promoting investment. Port of Baltimore forms a large part of these activities, being one of the 10 busiest ports in the U.S. and serving a significant part of the East Coast. The bulk of the products that pass through the port, and indeed the FTZ, includes cars, paper and steel, with BDC itself reporting that the total value of shipments through Baltimore’s FTZ was more than $19.9 billion in 2017.

Cleveland, Ohio

The Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) is a particularly active EDC, supporting the city and its 12,000 members as a catalyst for business growth and development in its various forms. It works closely with the Port of Cleveland, the latter responsible for more than 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in annual economic activity tied to the 13 million tons of cargo it handles per annum. With support from GCP, the port announced in May 2012 that it would be moving ahead with $20 million in projects that will include dock improvements, main gate enhancements and the construction of a state-of-the-art customs processing facility. This latest investment follows the completion of a $1.1 million cruise terminal processing center and $10.36 million extension of the Cleveland Bulk Terminal iron ore tunnel in 2020, the latter anticipated to bring another 1 million tons of cargo each year to the port. 

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is an interesting proposition, being the home of one of the country’s most active intermodal freight hubs and the thriving Port of Memphis, despite being in a landlocked state in Tennessee. The port serves 150 industries and handles a rich variety of goods, from petroleum and cement to grain and steel. It is able to connect these vital goods with the rest of the country thanks to the Mississippi River, five Class 1 railroads, major north-south and east-west interstate highways, and the nearby airport. Such is its critical role in accelerating economic activity, it carries an annual economic impact of more than $9.2 billion. Created in 2011, the Economic and Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis and Shelby County helps to support the region’s buoyant logistics industry, managing its foreign trade zone, providing business loans and tax incentives, and overseeing the Memphis Port Commission. 

shipping costs

Why Do Global Shipping Costs Continue to Skyrocket?

Global shipping costs are reaching rarely seen levels, putting strain on logistics teams and product purchasers alike. Here’s a closer look at some of the reasons for this phenomenon.

Worsening Container Delays Create Bidding Wars

Port backups were among the issues of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, they persist now, limiting the number of containers each port can efficiently accommodate. Relatedly, the shipping customers outpace the available space in each container. That problem makes prices rise so high that some entities lose out because they cannot afford to pay them.

Port Backups Cause Headaches

Some port backups are so severe that ships arrive unable to dock. That’s an ongoing situation at Washington State ports in Tacoma and Seattle. U.S. Coast Guard representatives helped redirect some vessels as they waited days or weeks to unload. Some ended up in unusual locations, such as off the Puget Sound. The offloading delays also cause a container shortage that affects new freight.

HMM, South Korea’s top national container carrier, recently reported severe vessel berthing congestion at most of its port calls, as well as related yard and gate issues. Other providers reported similar disruptions. However, the affected parties disagree about what’s to blame. The carriers often assert that ports are not sufficiently well-managed, which causes the delays. But port managers respond that carriers have not met their berthing window requirements.

Bids Can Reach the Tens of Thousands of Dollars

In any case, these slowdowns have made it exceptionally challenging to keep goods moving. Desperation makes some parties engage in bidding wars.

Philip Damas, head of the supply chain advisors practice at Drewry, a maritime research consultancy, explained, “Everyone is spending much longer on round trips. Containers are sitting on the water for much longer periods of time, containers are waiting at ports for much longer. Productivity in container shipping is deteriorating. Every failure is effectively creating ripple effects. It’s a vicious cycle.”

He continued by clarifying that freight indexes that track the changes in shipping costs usually gather the associated spot booking prices that get offered about a week before a ship departs. However, some ocean carriers offer available slots in shorter timeframes once the vessels are already at terminals. By then, there are plenty of customers eager to get goods on board at the last minute.

“Now everything is overbooked,” Damas said. “Shippers are desperate to book tomorrow. It’s more a bidding war than it is a traditional tariff, and this bidding war is accelerating. Some of these $23,000, $24,000 prices include the inland distribution cost, and that can easily add far more to the final cost.”

A combination of factors means many shippers decide there’s no choice but to pay those high prices. One longstanding issue is that carriers have cut capacity on major routes. Plus, the container shortage caused by backups escalates the problem. Shippers often realize they have to pay higher prices or leave the overseas markets.

Increased Demand From Customers Exacerbates the Issue

Company leaders usually appreciate when their products are in high demand, but the matter becomes more complicated when shipping costs are so high. In such cases, it’s necessary to either invest massive amounts of money to alleviate the shipping struggles or face lengthy delays that could upset customers.

For example, Amazon manages its own logistics system with extraordinary efficiency. However, that decision means building huge distribution centers as close as possible to the people who place orders. The company even began purchasing jets in early 2021 to exert more control over its air shipping options. However, most other brands don’t have such gigantic resources. Plus, the strategy may not pay off forever.

In the second quarter of 2020, Amazon showed a 68% increase in money spent on shipping. The e-commerce giant has yet to raise shipping costs for consumers, but other brands have already taken that approach. The rise in global shipping costs could even cause long-term stock shortages.

A Luggage Brand Goes to Great Lengths to Receive Goods

In one case, a global luggage company usually receives 11 container deliveries annually by August. That scheduling gets the goods to the merchant in time for the holidays. But, this year, it has only received three of the 11 so far, and not without significant expense.

The company normally pays $2,500 per 40-foot container. But representatives got an offer from an entity promising to get the container onto a ship in Thailand for $15,000. However, people at the company had to first get the goods to the vessel from Myanmar — a challenge in itself due to a trucking shortage affecting Asia. The brand eventually secured the necessary trucking assistance for $3,000.

In the end, the brand paid $18,000 to have its goods shipped. This example shows how much the global shipping crisis can quickly eat into profits. Another downside is that the container’s goods had a $30,000 value, so sending them cost more than half that amount.

The company reported that consumer demand was up, which is usually a positive thing. It’s probably in large part because of how people are starting to travel for pleasure more with the air travel industry beginning to recover and offer more routes.

Fewer Overall Affordable and Available Transport Options

A lack of choices to move goods also contributes to soaring global shipping costs. Some parties may get their products shipped by train and air when possible, but capacity limits exist there, too. The rush to get goods shipped causes a crunch that requires scrambling for any available slots offered via any kind of transit. Plus, air shipments are much costlier than those sent by sea, with some estimates saying that method is at least five times more expensive.

Severe weather can wreak havoc, too. In July 2021, a typhoon hit China and closed the country’s air, sea, and rail hubs. Earlier in the year, snowstorms forced some rail freight operators to temporarily cease running some routes. These challenges mean some customers decide they must cope with the tremendous shipping costs because there aren’t many other viable options.

Some brands are also trying to cope with delays within the supply chain by making up time at other points. One way to do that is with drones. Supermarket chain Tesco carried out a trial where some customers in Ireland received grocery orders only 200 seconds after the goods departed the store property.

In another instance, DHL partnered with a cargo drone company. The agreement involves using and managing several thousand drones to give customers same-day deliveries. Drone deliveries are not yet widespread options. However, they could become more popular, particularly as shipping professionals look for feasible ways to cut costs while keeping customers happy.

No Short-Term Price Easing

Analysts believe the global shipping costs will not return to more manageable levels during 2021. There are certainly not any quick fixes to the problem. Thus, the parties affected by it must decide on the most appropriate ways to deal with it, even if that means accepting astronomical prices or restructuring supply chains to avoid long-distance shipments as much as possible.


Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry.

demurrage D&D voyager


Demurrage and detention charges imposed on shippers by container lines have soared at unprecedented rates globally over the last year, according to the Demurrage & Detention Benchmark 2021 report published today by Container xChange, the world’s leading online platform for the leasing and trading of shipping containers,

However, the hikes are hugely inconsistent, with large differences apparent both by port and by carrier.

Across the world’s 20 largest container ports, the report found that average Demurrage and Detention (D&D) fees levied by container lines on customers two weeks after a box was discharged from the vessel more than doubled across ports and shipping lines between March 2020 and March 2021, climbing 104% or the equivalent of $666 per container across all container types.

None of the world’s top 20 ports by throughput saw a decrease in D&D fees over the period.

On average, D&D charges (see definitions below) in March this year were $720 per box across standard container types two weeks after the box discharge from the vessel.

“Demurrage and detention prices have always been an area of conflict between shippers and carriers and that tension has reached a new level this year as costs have spiraled,” said co-founder of Container xChange Christian Roeloffs.

“The key to minimizing D&D is to create transparency around the fees. With shippers informed about the costs associated with D&D, they’ll be able to make business decisions and enter negotiations informed of the accurate costs and per diems. We hope this report gives all parties increased transparency.”


To compile the report Container xChange collected more than 20,000 data points from publicly available sources. These were used to compare D&D rates imposed on customers by the world’s ten largest shipping lines across the world’s top-20 container ports. The data was then compared against data collected by Container xChange in March 2020.

The ten leading Chinese ports experienced a +126% increase in average D&D charges from March 2020 to March 2021. Qingdao saw the biggest rise in D&D rates, up 194% year-on-year, followed by Dalian where shippers suffered an average increase of +187%.

However, D&D charges in China remain far lower than in many other leading ports with seven of the top 10 cheapest ports located in the country. By contrast, average D&D fees two weeks after discharge at the Port of Long Beach in March were $2638, the most expensive in the world. In second place was neighboring Los Angeles at $2593.

“In the US, the Federal Maritime Commission is now looking into the practices of the container shipping industry and searching for ways to ensure that container users, many of whom feel they have been charged unfairly by carriers for D&D, can be refunded,” said Dr. Johannes Schlingmeier, CEO & Founder of the container leasing and trading platform. “Certainly, D&D rates have been accelerating, adding to the burden on shippers and industry on top of record container rates and global container shortages.”

Rotterdam had an average D&D rate in March of $756, Singapore was $615, and Antwerp was $709.

At the bottom of the spectrum was Busan (South Korea) with average D&D charges of only $132 in March this year. The next cheapest after the South Korean port were the Chinese ports of Dalian and Tianjin both with averages of $201.

Variations by carrier within ports

D&D charges do not just vary by port, they also vary by shipping line within each port. At the port of Los Angeles, which has been central to the chaos evident on the trans-Pacific container trade over the past year, average D&D charges increased by +142,7% from March 2020 to March 2021. CMA CGM’s D&D rates increased the most, up 167% over the period. Maersk was a close second, with its customers seeing a 161% increase in D&D charges.

By contrast, COSCO, unlike the other carriers in the Port of Los Angeles, lowered its average D&D fees by 15% over the period from $1417 in March last year to 2020 to $1213 in March 2021.

In Hamburg, meanwhile, the cheapest carrier in March this year was CMA CGM, which charged $258 in D&D after two weeks. Yang Ming was the most expensive line with rates of $1612.

Globally, the cheapest combination of carrier and port was COSCO and the Port of Busan in South Korea. The most expensive combination was CMA CGM at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.



The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on global shipping. One of the categories hit worst was roll-on/roll-off (Ro/Ro). These ships, which revolutionized the transport of automotive and military vehicles, often found themselves with nowhere to go as automakers shut down their plants in the first half of 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Figures compiled by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)—and published in its report COVID-19 and Maritime Transport: Impact and Responses—show just how bleak the Ro/Ro sector got, with the ships stopping in five percent fewer ports in the first quarter of 2020 than the same quarter a year earlier, and nearly 25 percent in the second quarter.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted on Ro/Ro services,” states the UNCTAD report. “Since March 2020, port calls by Ro/Ro ships worldwide declined by 22.8 percent compared with the same period in 2019. One in four ship calls has been suspended. Total calls by Ro/Ro ships since the beginning of 2020 declined by 13.8 percent as compared with the same period in 2019.”

While those declines were bad, it’s also true that vehicle traffic rebounded in the latter half of the year. We looked at 10 U.S. ports that have Ro/Ro capability to see how bad the situation got before they recovered—and how they did it. All of these ports instituted special COVID-19 protocols at the start of the pandemic, and all have remained operational throughout the crisis.


Port officials say that in the spring of 2020, the closure of so many automakers dramatically lowered the number of automobiles entering Colonel’s Island Terminal. May 2020 saw the worst volume decrease—down 77 percent compared to May 2019.

The rebound started in June, though port officials say Ro/Ro traffic that month was still 38 percent below June 2019. July was better, in that it was only down 11 percent. By August, Ro/Ro traffic was actually up 9 percent, though September was flat. The rest of the year saw Ro/Ro traffic up 32 percent over the previous year; November down 16 percent, and December was 27 percent ahead of the same month in 2019.

For the year, Colonel’s Island terminal served 435 vessel calls in 2020, compared to 466 in 2019. Put another way, in 2020 the Port of Brunswick handled 587,395 units of Ro/Ro cargo, a decrease of 25,506 (4 percent) compared to 2019.


The Port of Baltimore ranks “first among the nation’s ports for volume of autos and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, and imported gypsum,” according to the Maryland Port Administration. After sustained decreases in Ro/Ro traffic throughout the spring, December totals showed a triple-digit increase—the sixth consecutive month of increased compared to the first months of the pandemic, according to a Feb. 3, 2021, Maryland Port Administration news release. What’s more, December figures for general cargo, containers and Ro/Ro represent year-over-year monthly gains versus December of the previous year.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Port of Baltimore has been a barometer of Maryland’s economic recovery, and the latest figures give us great optimism for the new year,” Governor Larry Hogan said in the news release. “The port’s healthy rebound is an indicator of increased consumer demand, and we’ve proven we have the talented workforce and the infrastructure to answer that demand.”

By December 2020, 67,063 tons of Ro/Ro traffic moved through the Port of Baltimore—up nearly 36 percent from June. In fact, December was so good that Ro/Ro traffic was up 1 percent from the same month in 2019.


In the spring of 2020, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo shut down auto plants in the South due to COVID-19. This cut Ro/Ro traffic into Charleston by a third, according to 

But by August, the numbers started to recover. “Among the encouraging signs that port officials highlighted was the highest July on record for vehicle movement through the port,” according to Aug. 20, 2020, post in The Maritime Executive. “The strength in the Ro/Ro sector they believe signifies a return to normalcy at automotive plants throughout South Carolina and the Southeast.”

Port officials are so encouraged that they see a stronger rebound throughout 2021.

“We are encouraged by some signs of an initial rebound in our container and automotive volumes, as well as an increase in imports and a decline in blanked sailings,” S.C. Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said in an Aug. 20, 2020, Maritime Executive post. “However, a more substantial recovery is dependent on the duration and intensity of the economic impacts from the pandemic, and ultimately, on a vaccine.”


Like all U.S. ports, JAXPORT saw Ro/Ro traffic hit hard by the coronavirus. But the rebound in the summer and fall was strong. In fact, the last quarter of calendar year 2020 was “the second busiest quarter for vehicles in the port’s history,” according to a Feb. 11, 2021 JAXPORT news release.

Given that it’s one of the nation’s most diversified ports, and that means it’s “well-positioned to continue to see increased volumes to satisfy growing consumer demand in nearby markets throughout the Southeast, including South Florida, Orlando and the rest of the I-4 corridor,” said Alberto Cabrera, JAXPORT’s director of Automotive Accounts.

“An increase in U.S. military vehicle movements at the port helped to offset the industry-wide decline in commercial shipments due to the temporary shutdown of auto manufacturing over the summer caused by the coronavirus,” said Cabrera.

He adds that 2021 should be a “robust year” for emerging vehicle technology. “As manufacturers continue to rebound from the pandemic shutdowns, we will see the release of many new models with the advanced technology, including autonomous driving, steering assistance, and forward collision prevention, that consumers have been demanding,” Cabrera said. 


In late 2019, PhilaPort opened a giant new auto terminal and Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). “The VPC at Southport is capable of servicing 200 cars per hour and fully processing over 1,000 cars daily,” a PhilaPort news release said at the time. A few months later, the pandemic hit. After that, Ro/Ro traffic “was down, but not as much as the other Ro/Ro ports,” a PhilaPort spokesman said.

The port instituted new COVID-19 protocols, including closing the main administration offices in the early months of the pandemic. But by late September, the port reopened the offices. Today, the port is close to operating as usual—though with some adjustments. 

“This port handles almost 1 million tons of forest products in a normal year,” said Penn Warehousing and Distribution’s Tom Mutz in a Feb. 5, 2021, PhilaPort news release. “But COVID and new modes of consumer behavior have resulted in even greater amounts of forest products entering our port.”


Port officials made clear that COVID-19 had very little impact on the operations at the Port of Galveston. That being said, the temporary closure of many auto plants did cause a significant slowdown in Ro/Ro traffic for much of 2020. You can see it in the numbers provided by port officials: The port moved 487,371 vehicles in 2019, but just 314,790 in 2020.

That said, port officials noted that other traffic at the port is strong. In fact, they report that the port saw 25 cargo vessels in January 2021—up considerably from the 19 that arrived in pre-pandemic January 2020. 


For the Port of Hueneme, May and June of 2020 were the worst months of the pandemic for Ro/Ro traffic. During those months, Ro/Ro ship traffic dwindled almost to zero. Recovery finally came in the last quarter of 2020, which saw four to five Ro/Ro ships coming into port every week. 

But the damage had been done. In 2019, Ro/Ro ships moved 346,288 autos in and out of the Port of Hueneme, but just 282,164 in 2020—an 18.5 percent drop in a year. Overall tonnage dropped at the port 1.8 percent due to the pandemic. But so far, officials say Ro/Ro volume is still showing a strong recovery and is now 1 percent higher than the same period last year.

Port officials also say their own internal operations and communications plan worked very well in dealing with COVID-19 cases. In fact, they say the port saw just 19 reported COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020. Currently, the port is working with local officials to prioritize the vaccinations cycles for their workforce.


For the first half of 2020, the Port of Virginia saw a significant drop in trade—due both to the COVID-19 pandemic and trade tariffs. But port officials are proud that throughout the crisis, the port has not lost a single-day of productivity. Despite the drop in traffic, the port instituted no layoffs or cuts in pay and benefits. Officials also noted that since the port was processing less cargo, efficiencies increased—dwell-time for rail imports, berth productivity and turn-times for motor carriers. The port also used the slow period to accelerate maintenance schedules for equipment and make operational tweaks.

By the end of the year, the Port of Virginia was actually setting records: The port processed more than 260,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in December, making it the best volume on record for that month. The port also set its all-time monthly volume record in November 2020 by handling more than 280,000 TEUs.

Today, Port of Virginia officials describe their Ro/Ro capabilities as “strong.” They expect a rebound in both automobiles and traditional Ro-Ro cargo in 2021, which they say they can accommodate at either their Newport News Marine Terminal or the Portsmouth Marine Terminal.


Long lines of shipping traffic into the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are familiar to everyone within five miles of the Southern California coastline. Even in 2020, the traffic was considerable.

“Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the volume of containers flowing through the port, but the latter half of the year was very active as shippers worked to satisfy pent-up demand for goods,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “The Port of Long Beach had its best year on record in 2020, with 8,113,315 TEUs moved, up 6.3 percent from 2019. The port exceeded the previous annual record set in 2018 by 22,292 TEUs.”

But the same can’t be said for Ro/Ro ships. In fact, Ro/Ro data from the Port of Long Beach shows abysmal numbers: 302,811 vehicles in 2019, but just 239,135 in 2020.

To ensure that 2021 is good for all categories of shipping, Cordero is focusing on protecting his workforce.

“The nation’s waterfront workers have kept this country’s supply chain functioning since Day One of the pandemic, and they are at high risk,” Cordero said. “Prioritizing the waterfront workers for vaccination is of paramount importance, both for their safety, and for the sake of the economy. We are continuing to work with health officials to vaccinate essential workers, to maintain the fluidity of cargo movement.”


The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), the operating entity behind the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is the fourth largest container gateway in the United Sates. And the COVID-19 pandemic hit the NWSA hard across the board.

“Total container volumes in March were down approximately 21 percent as compared to March of 2019,” said John Wolfe, the NWSA CEO, according to an April 15, 2020, story in American Shipper. “That brings our year-to-date first-quarter decline to 15.4 percent.”

The situation at the ports was still bad, even into October.

“The economic fallout from COVID-19 continues to disrupt supply chains across the country and around the world,” stated an Oct 20, 2020, NWSA news release. “The NWSA gateway saw 59 blank sailings through September, surpassing the total number of canceled sailings in 2019.”

As with most ports in the U.S., by the end of the year cargo traffic had rebounded or even exceeded 2019 levels at the NWSA ports—except for auto volume. That stood at 156,205 units, down 18.6 percent from the previous year, according to a Jan. 20, 2021, NWSA news release.