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USA: 2022 Power Ports

Posted on August 15, 2022

Our List of the Top 50 Ports by Tonnage Reveals Some Surprises, Unsurprises & Some Un-Ports

At first glance, Global Trade’s latest list of top 50 power ports looks pretty much the same as last year’s. The same ports occupy the top 10 slots, although some switched places from year to year.

The greatest cluster of power ports among the top 20 remain in Texas and Louisiana, which is understandable considering the tonnage figures used to compile the list includes those that handle large quantities of both liquid bulk cargo (e.g., petroleum or chemicals) and dry bulk cargo (e.g., coal or grain) .

Indeed, that’s the modus operandi of the top three entrants on this year’s power ports list, which are respectively: the Port of Houston, Texas; the Port of South Louisiana in Reserve, Louisiana; and the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas.

However, comparing the top ports of 2022 and 2021, there are some surprises.

First, we must point out that our list is based on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics 2020 data that was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center.

That’s the most recent power ports data available, but it of course means that we’re dealing with numbers that were skewed by the supply chain nightmare are caused by that two-headed beast known as the global pandemic and runaway consumer demand.

As a result, our latest list of power ports includes such strangeness as five ports losing significant cargo tonnage yet occupying the same slots as they did the previous year. Stranger still were the nine ports that increased tonnage but dropped in the rankings.

More reasonable was the fact that 20 ports experienced decreases in tonnage and their rankings. Eight others rose when it came to both.

Five new entrants were welcomed to our power ports list, their locations being in Pennsylvania, Alaska and, well, nowhere. Or, actually, Ohio/West Virginia, Illinois/Iowa/Missouri and central/north-central Illinois. See, these are not single physical ports but, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “statistical ports,” which means … um… you’ll have to read on to figure that out.

What we can report is that our top 25 tonnage ports handled a total of 1,744 million tons of cargo—or about 71.3% of the tonnage handled by the top 100 ranked ports, which all together account for 95.5% of total tonnage handled by U.S. ports . That’s a lot of handling!

What follows are each of the top 50 power ports ranked in order, their ranking the previous year, their total tonnage for 2020 and how much that was up (+), down (-) or the same (=) as in 2019, according to the gubment.

All tonnage represents a mix of imported, exported and domestic materials. Ports within the first 22 that only handled domestic are indicated with an asterisk (*), while our entrant at No. 25 that dealt with domestic, and exports has two (**).

Port of Houston

Previous year: 1
Total tons: 275.9 million
(-9 million)

Yeesh, think of the ports that would love to have the 9 million tons Houston lost year-to-year. And yet, Houston remains number one, no doubt because it’s one of the world’s largest ports, benefitting as it does from its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and sprawling public and private facilities that stretch more than 50 miles.

Port of South Lousiana

Previous year: 2
Total tons: 225.1 million
(-12.9 million)

Yowzah, think of the ports that would love to have Houston’s lost tonnage and South Louisiana’s near 13 million tons of buh-bye. Yet it remains the Avis of port tonnage thanks to remaining America’s grain exporting leader.

Port of Corpus Christi

Previous year: 4
Total tons: 150.8 million
(+39.6 million)

It’s amazing that you add nearly 40 million tons—which is more than each port at No. 16 and below took in for the year—and only move up one spot on the list. “The Energy Port of the Americas” is the country’s second largest exporter of crude oil and is strategically located next to some of the largest Texas highways.

Port of New York and New Jersey

Previous year: 3
Total tons: 123.7 million
(-12.9 million)

Making the Corpus Christi leap even more stunning is the fact that had NY/NJ maintained its 136.6 million tonnage from 2019, it still would have dropped to No. 4. But don’t bet against the busiest container port on the East Coast as about a third of all U.S. GDP is produced within 250 miles of it.

Port of New Orleans

Previous year: 6
Total tons: 81.1 million
(-11.1 million)

You also can’t discount the Big Easy’s multimodal gateway, which combines rail, river and road and is on the Mississippi River and near the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, you may open yourself up to a voodoo spell.

Port of Long Beach

Previous year: 7
Total tons: 79.2 million
(-1.5 million)

Here is one of those cases where a port lost some tonnage year-to-year but still managed to move up in the rankings. Known in recent times for ships anchored off the Southern California coast awaiting berths, Long Beach has a broader reputation for handling cargo that is worth $200 billion+.

Port of Greater Baton Rouge

Previous year: 8
Total tons: 71.7 million
(-1.7 million)

Plopped at the convergence of the Mighty Mississippi and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the port serves The Heartland via 15,000 miles of inland water transportation. Like Long Beach, it dropped some tonnage but rose in the rankings.

Port of Beaumont

Previous year: 5
Total tons: 70.6 million
(-30.5 million)

The Texan port handles bulk grain, aggregate, liquid petroleum, forest products, military equipment cargo, metals—you name it. Seriously, please name it; “The Beau” was down 30 million+ tons, fer crying out loud. That’s too big a hit not to drop three spots on our list.

Port of Los Angeles

Previous year: 9
Total tons: 59.5 million
(-3.5 million)

And here is an example of a port that lost tonnage but not its slot on our rankings. You expect that from the busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere, handling everything from avocados to zinc and the alphabet soup of diverse commodities in between.

10 Port of Virginia

Previous year: 10
Total tons: 58 million
(-3.7 million)

The Norfolk port is another one that lost tonnage/maintained its position. Of course, things could change given Virginia is uniquely poised on the East Coast to accommodate ultra-large container vessels thanks to 55-foot-deep channels.

11 Port of Mobile

Previous year: 12
Total tons: 53.2 million
(-3.7 million)

It was a down year/better ranking for the Alabama port, the only such deep-water facility along the Mobile River. Better things could be ahead thanks to direct access to about 1,500 miles of inland and intercoastal waterways that put everywhere from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico in play.

12 Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal

Previous year: 13
Total tons: 46.8 million
(-6 million)

We’re like you, Alabama neighbor: down year/ranking hike! Nestled on the Gulf Coast and mouth of the Mississippi River, the Louisiana port provides water-based access to some 33 U.S. states.

13 Port of Savannah

Previous year: 15
Total tons: 43.5 million
(+1.6 million)

That’s more like it: A port that grows in tonnage and the rankings. Georgia Ports Authority’s crown jewel is one of America’s fastest growing container ports thanks to its easy reach to Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Memphis, and Orlando.

14 Port of Lake Charles

Previous year: 11
Total tons: 43.1 million
(-14.9 million)

Ouch! A nearly 15-million-ton hit is enough to drop the deep-water Louisiana seaport three notches on our list. But, again, being strategically perched at the center of the Gulf Coast could change things quickly.

15 Port of Port Arthur

Previous year: 19
Total tons: 41.2 million
(+7.3 million)

Not even the superfluous second “port” in the name could stop the Texas two-stepper from adding 7 million+ tons from the previous year and moving up four slots on our list. Of course, being based on the Sabine Neches Waterway, 19 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, doesn’t hurt.

16 Port Freeport

Previous year: 23
Total tons: 38.7 million
(+8.9 million)

Dare we say we’re in the middle of a Texas trend? Because the nearly 9 million more tons from our previous list helped the port move up a whopping seven slots. Watch year back, Port of Port Arthur, because a $295 million Port Freeport upgrade is expected to bring ever more larger vessels to a waterway on track to be deepened and widened by 2025.

17 Mid-Ohio Valley Port District

Previous year: not ranked
Total tons: 35.9 million

You could say Mid-Ohio Valley sprang onto our list out of nowhere because it did not officially exist until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the new “statistical port” in 2021. This port has no physical assets but is instead a way to aggregate freight data from the Ohio and West Virginia sides of the Ohio River. Whatever you consider Mid-Ohio Valley, it is likely to become the largest inland port by freight tonnage.

18 Port of Baltimore

Previous year: 14
Total tons: 35.2 million
(-9 million)

Boasting the deepest harbor in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, the port had been benefitting greatly from accepting larger vessels since the 2016 expansion of the Panama Canal. But a drop of 9 million tons moved Baltimore down four spaces.

19 Ports of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky

Previous year: 18
Total tons: 34.5 million
(-2.1 million)

The inland port complex covers 226.5 miles of commercially navigable waterways on the Ohio River and Licking River. The drop of just over 2 million tons could be a COVID blip for the 70 “barge and in charge” active terminals.

20 Port of Texas City

Previous year: 16
Total tons: 33.7 million
(-7.6 million)

Although it’s not the largest Texas port, it’s very close to the largest (Houston). Losing more than 7.5 million tons year-to-year is obviously significant for smaller ports. But in this instance, we’re talking about a vital trading hub for crude oil imports and the export of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, chemicals, and petroleum coke.

21 Port of Metropolitan St. Louis

Previous year: 21
Total tons: 30.5 million

A slight drop in tonnage and no change in the rankings for the second-largest inland port system in the States. Ol’ St. Louie spans 6,000 acres, two states (Missouri and Illinois) and lies along 15 miles of Mississippi River frontage.

22 Port of Huntington-Tristate

Previous year: 17
Total tons: 29.7 million
(-7.1 million)

Those “tri” states would be Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, which benefit from America’s most influential inland port sitting along prime country on the Ohio River. What the three amigos don’t benefit from is a hit of 7 million+ tons from year-to-year, accounting for a five-spot slide in our rankings.

23 Port of Philadelphia

Previous year: 39
Total tons: 28.5 million
(+12.2 million)

The numbers don’t lie as an impressive gain of 12 million+ tons year-to-year vaults PhilaPort into the top 25 and legitimizes its boasts of being the fastest growing port in the country.

24 Tampa Port Authority

Previous year: 22
Total tons: 28.5 million
(-1.5 million)

Think this is just the place you drop off your grandparents for their anniversary cruise? Think again: It’s also Florida’s largest cargo tonnage port and is flanked by a million square feet of warehouse space and 40-acre container yard. The 1.5 million fewer tons in 2020 from 2019 cost two places on our list.

25 Port of Valdez

Previous year: 26
Total tons: 25.1 million


Alaska makes it into the top 25 with America’s farthest north ice-free port. Port of Valdez is also the southern terminus of the Trans- Alaska oil pipeline that handles more than 1.5 million barrels of crude oil a day. Anyone who’s freaked out at the pumps lately knows that’s precious cargo.

26 Port of Duluth-Superior

Previous year: 20
Total tons: 25 million
(-8.6 million)

Losing more than 8.5 million tons year-to-year caused the twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, to drop six spots in the rankings. Located at the western part of Lake Superior, these are the farthest inland freshwater seaports in North America.

27 Port of Charleston

Previous year: 27
Total tons: 24.9 million

A small tonnage increase did nothing to the year-to-year ranking for this South Carolina Ports facility. Charleston serves as a vital transit hub for many essential industries in the region, including automotive manufacturing, consumers goods, frozen exports, grain, and tire manufacturing.

28 Port of Indiana

Previous year: 43
Total tons: 24.7 million
(+12.5 million)

What a difference a year makes in a few ways. First, this spot was listed as Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor last year. Now it’s Port of Indiana (Northern District). More stunning is an increase of 12.5 million tons to vault the port that is based in the largest steel-producing region of North America up 15 slots on our list.

29 Jackson County port Authority

Previous year: 25
Total tons: 23.1 million
(-2.7 million)

Known as Port of Pascagoula on last year’s list, this deep-water port on the southeastern coast of Mississippi lost in tonnage and ranking from year-to-year. The port’s east and west harbors are each home to several public and private cargo terminals.

30 Port of Seattle

Previous year: 29
Total tons: 23 million (=)

Founded in 1911 and now one of the largest container terminals on the West Coast, the port dropped one slot despite its tonnage remaining equal year-to-year. Hmm, wonder how its Puget Sound partner on the Northwest Seaport Alliance did?

31 Port of Tacoma

Previous year: 31
Total tons: 21.6 million

Well, look here: Seattle’s partner had a slight increase in tonnage and maintained the same ranking. By the way, the alliance is considered the fourth largest container gateway in the country.

32 Port of Richmond

Previous year: 24
Total tons: 21.1 tons
(-7.4 million)

Northern California’s most diversified cargo handler—thanks to its expansion into dry bulk, break-bulk and containerized cargo handling—was riding higher on last year’s list, helped no doubt by being the San Francisco Bay Area’s top port in vehicle tonnage. But a nearly 7.5 million tonnage decrease cost Richmond eight slots on our list.

33 Port of Portland

Previous year: 32
Total tons: 20.7 million
(+1.3 million)

Grain, minerals, forest products and automobiles are the most common types of cargo passing in and out of Oregon’s largest port, which handled 1.3 million tons more year-to-year but still somehow dropped a rank.

34 Port Everglades

Previous year: 28
Total tons: 20.4 million
(-3.6 million)

Meanwhile, over on the opposite coast, Florida’s so-called “powerhouse port” dropped more than 3.5 million tons year-to-year to move down six slots on our list. The Greater Fort Lauderdale/City of Hollywood region counts on $34 billion in economic activity from the port annually.

35 South Jersey Port District

Previous year: 34
Total tons: 20.3 million
(+1.9 million)

What was known on last year’s list as the Port of Paulsboro, New Jersey, gained nearly 2 million tons but dropped one spot. Situated on the Delaware River and around 80 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the port’s key commodities include crude oil, petroleum products and asphalt.

36 Port of Oakland

Previous year: 33
Total tons: 19.4 million

Here’s another that gained, albeit slightly, but dropped three rungs on our list. Founded in 1927, the busy Northern California seaport is equipped with an array of commercial buildings and industrial parks, as well as an airport.

37 Port of Kalama

Previous year: 36
Total tons: 18.1 million
(+1.1 million)

Um . . . are we in the middle of a trend? Because here is another port that increased tons and lost a slot in the rankings. Just 30 minutes north of Portland, Oregon, but within the state of Washington, the Port of Kalama prides itself on being a business-friendly haven, with no state corporate or personal income taxes levied.

38 Port of Jacksonville

Previous year: 35
Total tons: 16.7 million
(-1 million)

Florida’s largest container port and one of the nation’s most prominent vehicle handling sites, JAXPORT made the funny papers earlier this year when Gov. Ron DeSantis invited shippers to leave impacted ports on the coasts for Sunshine State counterparts with open berths. Increases in traffic are obviously not reflected on this power ports list—quite the opposite.

39 Port of Pittsburgh

Previous year: 30
Total tons: 15.5 million
(-6.3 million)

The southwestern Pennsylvania port and its 203 terminals took a sizable 6.3 million tonnage hit year-to-year to cost it nine spots on our list. Pitt is a hugely important transit hub for coal.

40 New Bourborn Port Authority

Previous year: not ranked
Total tons: 15.5 million (=)

Forty years in the making—the port authority was created in 1982 but construction of the physical port three miles south of St. Genevieve, Missouri, did not begin for another three decades—New Bourbon handling 15.5 million tons justified its founders’ forecasts of increased cargo on the Mississippi River and placement on this list.

41 Mid-America Port Commission

Previous year: 44
Total tons: 15 million
(+3 million)

The largest port district on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers serves 26 counties across Illinois, Iowa and Missouri and is flanked by three Class 1 railroads and four regional airports. That may explain the jump in tonnage and ranking spots for the so-called statistical port.

42 Illinois Waterway Ports

Previous year: not ranked
Total tons: 14.9 million

One good statistical port deserves another. By the way, Nos. 41 and 42 on this list are also marketed as being part of a larger selection of waterways collectively known as Corn Belt Ports. What the shuck? Yes, it’s true. Illinois Waterway Ports refers to those in the central and north-central parts of the Land of Lincoln.

43 Port of Two Harbors

Previous year: 37
Total tons: 13.5 million
(-3.4 million)

Two Harbors is a port city in Minnesota, where a nearly 3.5 million cut in tonnage cost six spots on our list. Located at Lake Superior, Two Harbors’ claim to fame is having the oldest operating lighthouse in the state, and the light keeper’s quarters are now a B&B.

44 Port of Boston

Previous year: 40
Total tons: 13.3 million
(-2.7 million)

A less than 3 million dip in tonnage cost more than three (four, actually) spots on our list. Boston Harbor’s seaport is the largest port in Massachusetts, with facilities dedicated to bulk cargo, petroleum, and LNG shipment and storage.

45 Port of Honolulu

Previous year: 41
Total tons: 12.3 million
(-2 million)

Honolulu also took a 2 million tonnage hit that cost four ranking levels. The state’s principal seaport handles containers, dry and liquid bulk, breakbulk cargo, passenger, and fishing vessels.

46 Port of Galveston

Previous year: 47
Total tons: 11.9 million

A nearly 1 million tonnage increase moved Galveston up a power port slot from year-to-year. Did you know this is one of the older Texan ports, beginning as a trading post in 1825 and since growing to more than 850 acres in size?

47 Port of Longview

Previous year: 50
Total tons: 11.1 million
(+1.4 million)

A nearly 1.5 million tonnage hike allowed the Washington state port to move up three slots from the previous rankings. Operating since 1921 along the banks of the Columbia River, Longview specializes in fertilizers, grain, heavy-lift cargo, logs, lumber, minerals, paper, pulp, and steel. In other words: heavy duty.

48 Port of Vancouver USA

Previous year: 46
Total tons: 10.2 million

Hey, remember reading Nos. 30 and 31 on this year’s list? Good times—and it was another example of what we have here: back-to-back Washington state ports. However, unlike Longview, Seattle, and Tacoma, which either increased or maintained tonnage, Vancouver experienced a drop in weight and ranking. Established in 1912, this port specializes in wheat, mineral and liquid bulks, vehicles, and other cargos.

49 Port of Cleveland

Previous year: 45
Total tons: 9.4 million
(-2.5 million)

What’s billed as the premier port of the Great Lakes took a 2.5 million tonnage hit year-to-year that caused Cleveland to drop four ranking notches. It’ll be back as half of U.S . households and manufacturing plants are within an eight-hour drive.

50 Port of San Juan

Previous year: 48
Total tons: 9.3 million
(-1.1 million)

The capital of U.S. territory Puerto Rico has experienced economic and Mother Nature knocks in recent years, which likely explains the drop in tonnage and ranking year-to-year. Half of the port’s piers service passenger ships and half are for cargo vessels.



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