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10 Largest Ports in the US [Updated: Nov 2021]

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Updated on 07 Mar 20215 min read

A port in the US for your shipments to and from the US with Shipa Freight

To this day, cargo ships remain the most reliable way of transporting goods both nationally and internationally. They also play a large role in the United States economy as well as the global economy.

Thanks to its booming port industry, the US also happens to be home to the seventh biggest trade economy in the world, with some of the largest ports accounting for 89.9 percent of all global imports and exports.

In this article, we’ve rounded up the 10 largest ports in the US and ranked them in order by their combined outbound and inbound TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). TEUs are used to measure volume, which correlates to cargo-carrying capacity.

1. Port of Los Angeles

TEUs: 5,039,363

The Port of Los Angeles in California, also referred to as America’s Port, is the largest port in the US. It joins with the Port of Long Beach to form an entire port complex. This makes LA one of the busiest US cargo ports for Transpacific trade and a critical center for business investment.

2. Port of Long Beach

TEUs: 4,364,771

The Port of Long Beach, which is the Harbor Department of the City of Long Beach, California, is known for its environmentally sustainable and safety operations. With six terminals accounting for $180 billion in annual trade movement, Long Beach is the second busiest port in the US.

3. Port of New Jersey and New York

TEUs: 4,196,372

The Port of (Newark) New Jersey and New York makes up the largest port on the east coast. It’s also one of the largest natural harbors in the entire world. This port is responsible for handling commodities including scrap metal, breakbulk cargo, and petroleum.

4. Port of Savannah

TEUs: 2,223,628

The Port of Savannah along with the Port of Brunswick make up the state of Georgia’s primary shipping ports. The port is made up of two terminals: the Ocean City terminal and the Garden City terminal. Both are deep water terminal facilities that serve as competition to the Port of Charleston and the Port of Jacksonville in South Carolina and Florida respectively.

5. Port of Houston

TEUs: 1,811,737

Houston, Texas is considered the top region for United States exports. This is primarily because the city is home to the largest petrochemical manufacturing complex in the US. The Port of Houston has actually seen so much growth over the years that it’s expanded the city limits, extending to the surrounding towns.

Some of Houston’s major exports include wood, fertilizers, iron and steel. However it’s primary exports are petroleum, mineral products, oils, and plastics.

6. Port of Seattle

TEUs: 1,567,803 & 1,217,316, respectively

The Port of Seattle is jointly operated with the Port of Tacoma under the Northern Seaport Alliance.

The Port of Seattle also has a terminal—terminal 86—that’s a state-of-the-art automated grain facility. This terminal is responsible for moving grain from transport vehicles to silos. From there the grain is moved to the cargo ships for international transport.

The Port of Tacoma is a deep water terminal that can accommodate large cargo ships. Because of this, the port is able to keep congestion minimal while maintaining its shipping efficiency. The primary exports that leave the Port of Tacoma are mostly agricultural, while imports range from vehicles to toys to electrical equipment.

7. Port of Norfolk

TEUs: 1,312,476

The Port of Norfolk is located in Virginia within close proximity to the Elizabeth and Lafayette Rivers. The Port of Norfolk is the largest terminal under the supervision of the Virginia Port Authority. It comprises three sections: The South Terminal, the North Terminal, and the Central Rail Yard.

From each of these sections, it only takes cargo ships around two and half hours to reach open water, making Norfolk one of the busiest ports in the US. The Port of Norfolk also has a well-connected railway that allows roughly a third of its cargo to be transported by train.

8. Port of Charleston

TEUs: 1,210,214

The Port of Charleston, located in South Carolina’s oldest city, offers five public terminals, including the North Charleston Terminal, which handles around 22% of the containers that pass through the group of facilities collectively known as South Carolina Ports. The other terminals in the Port of Charleston are responsible for handling motor vehicles and cruise ships. Additionally, the Port of Georgetown is roughly 60 miles north, providing straightforward access to prime trade markets.

9. Port of Oakland

TEUs: 1,070,642

The Port of Oakland is located in the San Francisco Bay and was the first major United States Pacific port to incorporate terminals for container ships. To this day, the Port of Oakland remains one of the busiest US cargo ports as its primary focus is on international container shipping. This port, in particular, is also considered an essential port for US agricultural exports.

10. The Port of Miami

TEUs: 770,000

The Port of Miami is conveniently located between North and South America, making it a leading hub of tourism and global commerce. If you go by its TEUs alone, Miami is one of the largest ports in the US—although it does not compare with some of its giant counterparts like the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California.

The Port of Miami is the only southeastern seaport that is able to accommodate Neo-Panamax vessels. This is thanks to it having the deepest shipping channel of all southeastern seaports.

The Biggest US Ports: Why Do They Matter?

The United States of America is home to some truly colossal container ports, and if your business is involved in importing to, or exporting from, the nation with the world’s largest economy, your freight is likely to pass through one of them. Large container ports can be subject to many issues due to the sheer volume of goods they handle, so it can be useful to know something about those through which you will route your merchandise.

This article of course, serves only as an introduction to the largest container gateways, but you can jump off to the home page of each port from the links we’ve included, to keep tabs on the latest news and developments at each of them