Top 7 container ports in the U.S.

This is a follow-up and related to my earlier post, “What’s in the box?” (about what is in all those container boxes on trucks or on rail cars, on container ships we see as we drive over the bridges around the Bay Area, or even by freeways near the rather huge, and very busy Port of Oakland).

Port of Oakland, San Francisco Bay, California – Photo source U.S. NOAA: Photograper – Rich Bourgerie, Oceanographer, CO-OPS, NOS, NOAA

First, some definitions (adapted from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technologies Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, available at www.bts.gov/dictionary)

  • Container: A large standard-size metal box into which cargo is packed for shipment aboard specially configured oceangoing container ships. It is designed to be moved with common handling equipment to enable high-speed intermodal transfers in economically large units between ships, rail cars, truck chassis, and barges using a minimum of labor. Therefore, the container rather than the cargo in it serves as the transfer unit.
  • Container Ship:  A cargo vessel designed and constructed to transport, within specifically designed cells, portable tanks, and freight containers, which are lifted on and off with their contents intact.
  • Container Port: A harbor with marine terminal facilities for transferring cargo between container ships.

Seattle, WA Port – Photograph Source: US NOAA

The top 7 ports in the US, based on the latest data and report from the Bureau of Transportation Statics, are:

  1. Los Angeles, California
  2. New York/New Jersey (not sure why they combine these)
  3. Long Beach, California
  4. Savannah, Georgia
  5. Houston, Texas
  6. Oakland, California
  7. Norfolk, Virginia

Wow — three of the top 7 ports are located in the state of California.  The report states

  • West coast ports as a region grew the fastest of any port region between the mid-1980s and 2009, but since 2007 the region has experienced the sharpest decline in container traffic.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, total TEUs  (20-foot equivalent units—a measure for counting containers) handled by west coast ports declined 22 percent, compared with 13 percent decline for east coast ports and less than 1 percent increase for gulf coast ports.

#9 Port – Port of Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Rich Bourgerie, Oceanographer, CO-OPS, NOS, NOAA

And here are the rest — the TOP 20

 U.S. Waterborne Foreign Containerized Trade Handled at

Leading U.S. Container Ports: 2008–2009

(By thousands of metric tons)

RANK in 2009

U.S. Customs Port

Year 2008

Year 2009

Percent Change 2008-2009

1

Los Angeles, CA

41,134

37,262

-9.4

2

New York/New Jersey, NY/NJ

31,309

29,060

-7.2

3

Long Beach, CA

33,041

27,344

-17.2

4

Savannah, GA

17,895

16,619

-7.1

5

Houston, TX

13,128

12,423

-5.4

6

Oakland, CA

11,961

12,391

3.6

7

Norfolk, VA

13,444

11,858

-11.8

8

Seattle, WA

8,995

9,080

0.9

9

Charleston, SC

11,034

8,149

-26.1

10

Tacoma, WA

9,373

7,424

-20.8

11

Miami, FL

5,146

4,969

-3.4

12

Baltimore, MD

4,461

4,331

-2.9

13

Port Everglades, FL

5,282

4,261

-19.3

14

New Orleans, LA

2,668

2,795

4.7

15

San Juan, PR

2,045

2,007

-1.9

16

Philadelphia, PA

2,255

2,005

-11.1

17

Jacksonville, FL

1,202

1,589

32.3

18

Wilmington, NC

1,152

1,555

35.0

19

Portland, OR

1,823

1,518

-16.7

20

Wilmington, DE

1,563

1,346

-13.9I

Interested in the nitty-gritty details?  Here is a link to the full (52 pages) report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf), where I learned…

  • The majority of container ship calls to the United States are made to a relative few ports.
  • The top 10 U.S. container ports accounted for more than three quarters (77 percent) of container ship calls.

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Now that you are here, I would love to know what you think...comments are always appreciated.