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  March 1st, 2013 | Written by

Why Shippers Love These Ports

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Twenty Picks and What They Offer Your Logistics Program

Despite a soft global economy, the idea popularized by Field of Dreams that “If you build it, they will come” seems appropriate for many of the world’s cargo ports, especially in the States where an increasing number are dredging and expanding capacity to accommodate more business and larger ships.

Why Shippers Love These Ports is a thumbnail sketch of what importers and exporters love at these ports. Midwestern shippers may appreciate easy access to ports that offer interstate, first-class rail and proximity to the Mississippi River. Western exporters might appreciate the shorter distances to Asian markets.

Port of Baltimore

Top Destinations: United Kingdom, France, Belgium
Top Export Cargoes: Automobiles, Coal, Petroleum
Total Trade: 44.87 million tons
Port of Baltimore
Port of Baltimore

Competition for cargo growth requires savvy marketing and capital improvements. Dredging is complete, four 14-story cranes have arrived from China, and CSX is planning a state-of-art intermodal facility at the Port of Baltimore where officials look to attract post-Panamax vessels. In 2011, 37.8 million tons of total foreign commerce moved through the port, valued at $51.4 billion.

Port of Greater Baton Rouge

Top Destinations: South Korea, Mexico, China
Top Export Cargoes: Forest Products, Agricultural Products, Steel and Pipe
Total Trade: 57.87 million tons

Rich in history and with a strong economy, Baton Rouge is one of the nation’s “Top 10 Cities for Young Adults.” Moreover, it is home to the Port of Greater Baton located at the upper end of the Mississippi River and near major oil fields in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. It offers inexpensive river and ocean transport and is a distribution center for agricultural products from the surrounding region. It’s ranked as the nation’s 13th-largest port in total tonnage.

Port of Boston

Top Destinations: North China, Japan, North Europe
Top Export Cargoes: Hides and Skins, Automobiles, Logs and Lumber
Total Trade: 18.4 million tons

“We want to make sure we’re an economic engine and gateway to the global economy,” says Port of Boston CEO Thomas Glynn. The oldest continually active port in the Western Hemisphere, it spent some $70 million for improved technology, land expansion and facility enhancements. Plans now call for a dedicated truck route and terminal buffer, which Massport spokesperson Lisa Langone says can save New England companies on trucking costs.

Port of Charleston

Top Destinations: Asia, Europe, Latin America
Top Export Cargoes: Automobiles, Agriculture Products, Tires
Total Trade: 17.91 million tons

The Port of Charleston is investing $1.3 billion in a 10-year plan to become a top-five post-Panamax port. It proudly touts the deepest channel in the Southeast at 48 feet. It added four new container services in 2012 and is one of the nation’s 17 commercial “Strategic Ports.” South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome says the deep water advantage gives it a competitive edge over nearby ports and is already prepared to handle the larger cargo ships.

Port of Corpus Christi

Top Destinations: Venezuela, Spain, Brazil,
Top Export Cargoes: Oil, Petrochemicals, Shale Oil
Total Trade: 70.53 million tons
Port Corpus Christi
Port Corpus Christi

Affectionately known as “The Sparkling City by the Sea,” Corpus Christi is the proud home of the sixth-largest port in the nation. The Port of Corpus Christi’s location and facilities are attractive for business development says John LaRue, the port’s executive director. Just seven hours from Mexico, the deep-water port has three Class 1 railroads that offer easy access. “There’s not a lot of congestion,” says LaRue. “They want to be sable to get in and out very quickly. The weather doesn’t hurt either.

Port of Galveston

Top Destinations: Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica
Top Export Cargoes: Grains, Fruit, Fertilizer
Total Trade: 13.74 million tons

In the heavily competitive Lone Star State, the Port of Galveston has to carve out a niche to out duel 15 other Texas ports. It set records in the shipment of bulk fertilizer and roll-on/roll-off cargo (RO/RO)—late-model used cars, agricultural and construction equipment— totaling more than 500,000 tons, 25 percent more than the previous year. Although it specializes in grain, the port’s shipments were down because of last year’s drought. Port of Galveston found a new niche in cattle, sending 40,000 to Russia. “It was sort of funny,” says port director Michael Mierzwa, “you had these cows stick their heads out between the slits between the railing just like on a railroad cattle car.” The port is planning construction to improve capacity for larger ships

Port of Hamburg, Germany

Top Destinations: China, the Baltic Sea region, Russia
Top Export Cargoes: Pharmaceutical Materials, Coffee, Spice
Total Trade: 132.29 million tons
Port of Hamburg, Germany
Port of Hamburg, Germany

The Port of Hamburg, known as Germany’s Gateway to the World, is the country’s largest port. In 2011, container shipping rose 16.5 percent over the previous year. Claudia Roller, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, attributed the growth to its infrastructure and award-winning service providers, and dredging will further boost the port’s attractiveness. With more than 220 cargo trains per day, Hamburg is Europe’s No. 1 railway port and intermodal hub.

Port of Houston

Top Destinations: Brazil, China, India
Top Export Cargoes: Petroleum, Chemicals, Steel
Total Trade: 237.80 million tons

The Port of Houston was rated “Port Authority of the Year in 2011” by Colliers International Valuation & Advisory Services. Many nearby petroleum companies make it one of world’s largest petrochemical complexes, fueled by its infrastructure and intermodal assets. The Colliers report says: “Loss of the Port of Houston could have the most adverse impact to the U.S. economy if it were ever to be incapacitated for an extended period of time.” It is the largest Texas port with 46 percent market share.


Top Destinations: Caribbean, Europe, Middle East
Top Export Cargoes: Automobiles, Coal, Pulp and Paper
Total Trade: 16.82 million tons

JAXPORT follows the old adage, “location, location, location.” Despite being Florida’s third-largest cargo port, JAXPORT sits at the crossroads of three major railroads (CSX, Norfolk Southern and Florida East Coast Railway) and three interstate highways (I-95, I-10 and 1-75). Deep-channel construction is another plus, and it’s the nation’s second-largest port for automobiles. JAXPORT also has a heavy military presence, with a submarine base and two additional military facilities.

Port of Long Beach

Top Destinations: Taiwan, China, Mexico
Top Export Cargoes: Petroleum Coke, Waste Paper and Paperboard, Oil and Oil Products
Total Trade: 80.28 million tons

The Port of Long Beach has a Hollywood influence. The port’s television program, Pulse of the Port, touts its $4.5 billion expansion project and marketing plans for boosting business to Central and South America, where demand for U.S. goods is on the rise. “As most experts look at Latin America, they’re saying that’s where there will be a lot more future,” explains J. Christopher Lytle, executive director. “I don’t want to get into business too late.”

Port of Los Angeles

Top Destinations: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, India
Top Export Cargoes: Waste Paper, Scrap Metal, Animal Feed
Total Trade: 65 million tons
Port of Los Angeles
Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s No. 1 container port by volume, a distinction it has held since 2000. In 2006, the port moved an impressive 8.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) that established a new national container record. The port has launched a major capital project to expand. “We feel we’re in the cutting edge,” explains port spokesman Phillip Sanfield. “We’re continuing to invest to maintain world class infrastructure and remain unparalleled.”

Port Miami

Top Destinations: South America, Europe, Asia
Top Export Cargoes: Automobiles, Food Products, Agricultural Material
Total Trade: 7.18 million tons

Miami’s lure of beaches and trendy nightlife makes it a dream location for snowbirds seeking a respite from chilling northern winters. For PortMiami, early 2015 completion of a tunnel and channel widening to 50 feet may be a cargo volume booster. Total tonnage rose 10 percent in 2011 while annual TEUs rose 6.5 percent. Touted as the “Cargo Gateway of the Americas,” Latin America and the Caribbean are among the major destinations for the port’s cargo.

Port of Mobile, Alabama

Top Destinations: Mexico, the Mediterranean, Netherlands
Top Export Cargoes: Wood Pulp, Iron, Steel
Total Trade: 55.6 million tons

In 2012, metallurgical coal stoked record fiscal-year revenues of $144.6 million for the port. Officials attribute growth to greater global demand and boosts in shipments of iron, steel, forest products, automobile components and refrigerated cargo. Containerized cargo rose 31 percent to 196,965 TEUs. The port is served by two interstate systems, five class-one railroads and has direct access to inland waterways extending to the Great Lakes.

Port of Montreal

Top Destinations: Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia
Top Export Cargoes: Petroleum Products, Forest Products, Grain
Total Trade: 28.53 million tons

Often called the Paris of North America, Montreal is a hub for international shipping and commerce. Montreal Port Authority president and CEO Sylvie Vachon says the port is a trans-shipment center that is connected to all six continents. “We are an internationally renowned port and a leading North American intermodal center within the global logistics chain. It is a leading container port served by the largest container shipping lines in the world.”

Port of New Orleans

Top Destinations: Latin America, Europe, Africa
Top Export Cargoes: Chemicals, Coal, Timber
Total Trade: 77.1 million tons

The birthplace of jazz and home of Mardi Gras, New Orleans is at the center of the world’s busiest port complex—Louisiana’s Lower-Mississippi River. Six railroads feed into the port and $100 million infrastructure projects make it the choice for Midwest cargo. Port CEO Gary LaGrange says the right conditions encourage economic development. “The Port of New Orleans is a major contributor to providing those conditions and our business leaders understand our future is tied to international trade.”

Port of New York & New Jersey

Top Destinations: China, Europe, India
Top Export Cargoes: Beverages, Paper Products, Machinery
Total Trade: 139.17 million tons

In the city that never sleeps, the Port of New York and its partner the Port of New Jersey compete heavily against neighboring ports in Boston and Philadelphia. In 2011, Port NY/NJ ranked third in container cargo with 606 million TEUs and it is currently working to deepen and expand its harbor to accommodate larger ships. “The port improvement is providing superior ocean access to accommodate the demand for international cargo throughout region,” says a port official.

Port of Savannah, Georgia

Top Destinations: Asia, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean
Top Export Cargoes: Poultry, Forest Products, Rubber
Total Trade: 35.5 million tons

Six million tourists can’t be wrong. Nice weather and a slow carriage ride down magnolia tree-lined streets make Savannah a special city. It is also home to the nation’s fastest growing port, which grew 16.5 percent from 2000 to 2005. In 2007, it was the fourth-busiest U.S. port and fastest growing container terminal, handing 2.3 million TEUs. “Our capital programs have transformed this seaport’s ability to handle post-Panama sized ships and diversity in its cargo base, attract industrial investment statewide and generate jobs,” says James K. Lyons, director and CEO.

Port of Seattle

Top Destinations: China, Japan, Taiwan
Top Export Cargoes: Grain, Machinery, Seafood
Total Trade: 26.6 million tons

The port looks to the future. Already the sixth-largest U.S. port and the closest to Asia, officials proudly tout its state-of-the art facilities and say it clearly wants to be “where a sustainable world is headed.” New post-Panamax cranes bring its total crane count to 27 and its channel is 50 feet deep. It also is responsible for 21,695 direct jobs and 7,845 indirect jobs.

Port of Tampa

Top Destinations: India, Mexico, Trinidad
Top Export Cargoes: Petroleum Products, Forest Products, Cement
Total Trade: 31.4 million tons

A poplar departure port for Caribbean cruises, Florida’s largest port is revving up to boost cargo business with capital improvements designed to increase container and bulk cargo facilities. Container capacity will increase from 25 to 160 acres, accommodating up to 200,000 TEUs, says Wade Elliot, director of marketing. Expansion will allow for more bulk cargo such as petroleum products, chemicals and fertilizer.

Port of Virginia

Top Destinations: Brazil, Netherlands, Italy
Top Export Cargoes: Minerals, Fuel, Oil
Total Trade: 72.6 million tons

The motto “Virginia is for lovers” has captured tourists’ hearts for years. Once a key producer of tobacco, Virginia is now a leading producer of turkeys and broilers. Some $1.3 billion in CSX and Norfolk Southern rail upgrades and a 50-foot deep channel enhance the port’s attractiveness. Officials say the goal is to “establish the Port of Virginia as the leading ocean container terminal complex on the East Coast.” As a good start, it has the largest and fastest container cranes in the world—22 cranes with 26-foot outreaches.