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Top Largest & Busiest American Ports

Posted on October 5, 2023

There are over 360 commercial ports in the U.S. alone, and more than 800 ports across the globe. Ports serve as pivotal nodes in the United States’ supply chain infrastructure, particularly in their specialized roles of cargo handling and container handling at dedicated container terminals. These functions are crucial for the smooth operation of logistics and manufacturing sectors.

Many American ports are known for being the only port in their region equipped to handle specific types of cargo, making them indispensable links in the trade network. For instance, facilities like those in the Garden City Terminal might specialize in certain types of cargo, making it a primary port for those types of goods. In terms of sheer volume, some locations distinguish themselves as the busiest port in container volume in the country.

Container terminals within the ports are highly specialized facilities designed to handle an ever-increasing volume of goods, thereby supporting manufacturing industries that rely on just-in-time delivery models. Here, cargo terminals come into play, allowing for the rapid movement of raw materials to factories and finished products to markets.

The Top 10 Largest and Busiest Ports in the USA

We’ve put together a list of the largest, busiest and most important ports in the US that contribute to the country’s—as well as the whole world’s—bustling economy.

1. The Port of Los Angeles—California

Image credit: Port of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Port is the busiest port in the United States in terms of container tonnage, making it an essential hub in the U.S. supply chain. Located in a prime position for trans-Pacific trade, this Southern California port handles a wide variety of items that are essential to the nation’s industrial and consumer economies.

Logistics operations are streamlined due to the availability of specialized cargo ports and container handling facilities. This ocean terminal is vital to the domestic and international supply lines of major corporations including Walmart, Target, and Samsung.

    • Year opened: 1907
    • TEUs: 9.91 million
    • Tons of Freight: 63 million
    • Size: 7,500 acres of land and water along 43 miles of waterfront

2. The Port Of New York And New Jersey (Newark)—New York and New Jersey

Image credit: Shutterstock/Roman Babakin

The Port of New York and New Jersey, with its strategic location in Newark, is yet another important cog in the United States’ supply chain system. It is the busiest port on the East Coast and is vital to transatlantic and global trade.

Its cutting-edge container terminals and cargo handling facilities enable flawless logistics operations, making it important to the Northeast and beyond manufacturing sectors. Companies like Amazon, Tesla, and Home Depot rely on this port for efficient cargo movement, cementing its position as a main port in the national and worldwide logistics network.

    • Year opened: 1921
    • TEUs: 9.49 million
    • Tons of Freight: 136 million
    • Size: 960,000 acres

3. The Port Of Long Beach—California

Image credit: Port of Long Beach by Don Ramey Logan.jpg from Wikimedia Commons

The Port of Long Beach, located in Southern California next to the Port of Los Angeles, is another important actor in the United States’ supply chain environment. It is one of the busiest container ports in the country, specializing in efficient freight and container handling with its modern container terminals.

The Long Beach port serves as an important gateway for transpacific trade, notably with Asia, and as a vital hub for the American industrial and retail industries. Companies such as Apple, Nike, and Toyota rely on the Port of Long Beach to transfer goods quickly and reliably, underscoring its critical role in local and global logistics networks.

    • Year opened: 1911
    • TEUs: 9.13 million
    • Tons of Freight: 80 million
    • Size: Spanning 3,200 acres with 31 miles of waterfront

4. The Port Of Savannah—Georgia

Image credit: Shutterstock/Joseph Sohm

The Port of Savannah in Georgia has quickly risen to prominence as a vital hub in the United States supply chain, excelling primarily in container handling. The Garden City Terminal, its most prominent facility, is the largest owner operated terminal in North America, contributing to its prominence as a main port for both local and international trade.

The Savannah port is notably important for the Southeast, serving businesses ranging from automotive to retail. Companies such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Target rely on Georgia ports authority as a major link for receiving and distributing commodities, emphasizing its critical position in national logistics and production.

    • Year opened: 1744
    • TEUs: 5.89 million
    • Tons of Freight: 41 million
    • Size: 1,345 acres with approximately 18 miles of waterfront

5. The Port of Houston—Texas

Image credit: Shutterstock/TBaker770

The Port of Houston in Texas is a crucial link in the United States’ supply chain, especially for the energy and petrochemical industries due to its proximity to major oil deposits. The port is one of the busiest in the United States, not just in terms of container volume but also in terms of tonnage, making it a key port for a variety of commodities.

ExxonMobil, Shell, and Dow Chemical rely on Houston Port for the seamless movement of raw materials and completed goods, highlighting the port’s essential role in the American industrial landscape.

    • Year opened: 1914
    • TEUs: 3.97 million
    • Tons of Freight: 288 million
    • Size: 52-mile waterway

6. The Port Of Virginia—Virginia

Image credit: Port of Virginia

The Port of Virginia is an important link in the United States’ supply chain because of its convenient position on the East Coast. The port’s container terminals are among the most modern in the world, allowing for tremendous growth in its cargo volumes in international trade across the Atlantic and beyond.

This port is the first choice for distributing consumer goods, agricultural products, and industrial supplies in the area. Its importance to national and international trade is demonstrated by the fact that major corporations like Walmart, Ford, and Microsoft use it extensively for shipping and receiving goods.

    • Year opened: 1981
    • TEUs: 3.70 million
    • Tons of Freight: 61 million
    • Size: 7,040 acres of pier and wharf space and 4 miles of waterfront space

7. The Northwest Seaport Alliance (Seattle and Tacoma)—Washington

Image credit: Shutterstock/M4Productions

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a partnership between Tacoma and Seattle Port in Washington State, occupies a unique position in the United States supply chain. Its integrated container facilities, which specialize in cargo and container handling, serve as vital gateways for trade with Asia and other international markets.

Major corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks, and Boeing rely on this alliance for logistics, highlighting its importance in a variety of industries such as technology, aerospace, and consumer goods. Seattle and Tacoma’s collaboration assures an optimized, efficient logistics network, confirming Seattle’s place as a main port in the US supply chain.

    • Year opened: 1911 (Port of Seattle), 1918 (Port of Tacoma)
    • TEUs: 3.38 million
    • Tons of Freight: 23 million (Seattle), 21 million (Tacoma)
    • Size: 1,754 acres

8. The Port Of Charleston—South Carolina

Image credit: Shutterstock/Nataliya Hora

As part of the South Carolina Ports Authority, the Port of Charleston is an important link in the United States’ supply network, especially for the Southeast. The Port of Charleston handled a record number of containers in 2022, setting a new South Carolina record for all ports.

The Port of Charleston is vital to the operations of multinational corporations like BMW, Michelin, and Boeing, allowing for the uninterrupted flow of raw materials, components, and completed goods. Its central location and modern infrastructure have elevated its role in supporting a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and retail.

    • Year opened: 1670
    • TEUs: 2.79 million
    • Tons of Freight: 24.5 million
    • Size: 155 acres

9. The Port Of Oakland—California

Image credit: Shutterstock/TierneyMJ

Oakland Port, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, is an important link in the logistics network of the United States. Its container facilities, which are located in prime positions for transpacific trade, especially with Asia, make a significant contribution to the economy.

Due to its unique location near Silicon Valley and California’s rich agricultural regions, the port serves as a main port for a wide variety of sectors, as evidenced by the fact that companies like Apple, Google, and Del Monte Foods rely on it for their logistics needs.

    • Year opened: 1927
    • TEUs: 2.33 million
    • Tons of Freight: 19.3 million
    • Size: 1,300 acres with 20 miles of waterfront

10. The Port of Jacksonville—Florida

Image credit: Shutterstock/David Garrison

Florida’s Port of Jacksonville, or JAXPORT for short, is an important node in the U.S. supply chain, especially for the Southeast, as it connects to more than 70 countries daily. Because of its superior container terminals and cargo processing facilities, which have already received $1.8 billion in upgrades, it is a key port for the transfer of automobiles, retail products, and consumer goods.

Companies as diverse as Volkswagen, General Motors, and Coca-Cola rely on the Port of Jacksonville to facilitate the efficient shipping of their products.

    • Year opened: 1963
    • TEUs: 1.29 million
    • Tons of Freight: 18 million
    • Size: 1,500 acres



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