Top 5 Busiest Ports in the US as of 2023

Top 5 Busiest Ports in the US

The entry points for international trade are seaports. They are the centers of international trade, regulating the movement of goods between nations thousands of miles apart, and frequently the backbone of regional economies.

Top 10 Busiest Ports in the US

Ports for a nation are the backbone of its trade. Ports act as the major transportation hub for a nation both for exports and imports. Through these ports, goods from local businesses as well as international businesses are made available to the customers. Ports are mainly the busiest when it comes to the transportation of goods.

The ports are mainly divided into three types: seaports, intercoastal ports, and inland ports. The seaports are considered the economic drivers and the transportation hubs as almost all of the international imports and exports are carried out from here. Moreover, to keep up with the demands of modern times, ports are upgraded more and more both in infrastructure and technology.

Ports are also used in cases of emergency and national security by a nation. They are also used by coast guards or any other type of homeland security organization to secure the country from any type of harm.

The United States is home to some of the biggest and most important container gateways in the world. In this article, we are going to take a look at the top 5 busiest ports in the United States and know about them in detail.

1. Port of Los Angeles, California

The port of Los Angeles, California is the busiest port in the United States. The port was opened on December 9, 1907. Since the port was opened, it has been a major center of transportation for the United States. In 1912, the port was connected to the southern Pacific railroad and by 1920, it had overtaken San Francisco as the busiest port on the Western coast of the United States. In 1930, the port was upgraded with the construction of breakwaters. The port of Los Angeles was the one on which the sailing events of the 1932 Olympics were held.

During World War II, the port was mainly used as a shipbuilding port and provided employment to 90000 people. In 1959, the port received its first 20 containers from Matson Navigation Company’s Hawaiian merchant. In the year 1985, the port for the first time registered 1 million containers in a year. By 2013, the port registered more than half a million containers every month.

The port of Los Angeles is managed by the Los Angeles Harbour Department which is an organization under the City of Los Angeles. The port acquires a total area of 7500 acres combining both land and water. The waterfront of the port is 43 miles. The port of Los Angeles is located in San Pedro bay which is about 20 miles from downtown. US LAX is the code of the port. Jaime L. Lee and Edward Renwick are the presidents and vice presidents of the port of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Gene Seroka is the Executive Director.

According to the statistics of 2019, a total of 1867 vessels arrived at the port with 178 million metric revenue tons of cargo. Moreover, the total number of cargo containers in 2019 was 9.3 million and its total value was 276 billion dollars. The passenger traffic of the port of Los Angeles was 650,010 in 2019. The total revenue generated in the year 2019 by the port was 516 million dollars. The Port of Los Angeles has created a total of 1.45 million jobs throughout the United States.

The major exports from the port are metals, waste paper, scrap, pet and animal feeds, and soybean. Meanwhile, the major imports were electronics, footwear, furniture, apparel, and automatic parts. The cargo that arrives at the port of Los Angeles makes up about 20% of the cargo of the United States. The three major trading partners of the port were China, Vietnam, and Japan. Annually, more than 1 million passengers travel to different parts of the world from this port.

2. Port of Long Beach, California

The port of Long beach also known as the harbor department of the city of Long Beach is the second busiest port in the United States. The port was opened on June 24, 1911. However, in 1917, the first board of harbor commissioners was formed to manage the port. In 1924, with the economy booming a 5 million-dollar infrastructure project for the development of the port was approved. In 1925, the construction of 2 piers was started as well.

The port of Long beach, in 1926, handled more than one million tons of cargo. The importance of the port increased more when the fourth largest oil field in the United States Wilmington Oil Field was discovered. The majority of the oil reserves were under the port of Long beach itself. In 1937, the first offshore oil well was started here as well. The port of Long beach after the end of World War ll in 1946 was given the title of America’s most modern port.

Thereafter with the increasing demand and business, the Long Beach port kept on becoming bigger with many new infrastructure projects to support its traffic. It was also the first port from which US officials went to China and it became China’s first US Port call a year later.

From 1990 to 2005, the port’s traffic kept on increasing at a very rapid pace. The inbound containers to the port tripled from 1 million in 1997 to 3.3 million in 2005. In 1997, the shipyard of the port was closed and in 2001, the US Navy also closed its operation at the port.

The port of Long Beach has a total area of 3200 acres with 80 berths and 10 piers. The annual container volume of the port in 2018 was 8.1 million. Moreover, the total value of export and import is around 100 billion dollars annually.

The major exports of the port of Long Beach are petroleum Coke, petroleum bulk, food, chemicals, and waste paper. Meanwhile, the major imports of the port are crude oil, electronics, plastic furniture, and clothing. The port has employed more than 370000 people all over the US.

3. Port of New York and New Jersey

The port of New York and New Jersey is the main port of the New York metropolitan area. The port is considered to have one of the largest natural harbors in the world. As of August 2022, it is the busiest port by volume of cargo in the United States. The port is well connected with all the airports of the region along with all the major rail routes as well for the transportation of goods in both ways.

The port of New York and New Jersey is a natural harbor seaport. Moreover, with the construction of canals in the early 19th century, the port opened the route to the interior of regions of the US. This helped in the transportation of machinery during industrialization which helped in the rapid growth of the region as a whole.

In 1910, the port of New York and New Jersey was the busiest port in the world. The port authority of New York and New Jersey was established in 1921. It was the first such authority that comprised two states. The Port Authority is responsible for looking after the major function of the port.

During the world wars, the port of New York and New Jersey was used for shipbuilding and military installations as well as for the transportation of troops. After the wars, many major highways were constructed close to the shoreline such as Belt parkway, East river drive, etc.

In 1958, the first shipping container facility in the United States was established here as a prototype. In 1980, the waterfront was used to make public parks like Hudson river park, Hudson river waterfront walkway, and the Brooklyn Bridge park.

The total complex of the port is about 386 km which has shipping channels, port facilities, and anchorages. The Port of New York and New Jersey set a record by moving 7.4 million TEUs of cargo in 2019. In the port, there are 6 modern cargo terminals with the capacity of handling 14,000 TEU at the same time. The annual cargo value of the port of New York and New Jersey is 205 billion dollars.

The primary goods that are exported from these ports are paper, motor vehicles, scrap and waste, automobile parts, and households. Meanwhile, the major imports through the port are beverages, furniture, machinery, and apparel.

4. Port of Savannah, Georgia

The fourth busiest port in the United States is the port of Savannah. The port is located in the Savanna river in Georgia. It helps in the movement of goods both upstream and downstream. It is situated about 18 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean. The port of Savannah is operated and owned by the Georgia ports authority. The port was opened in 1744 and it is a natural river harbor.

The port of Savannah since its opening has always been among the busiest ports in the United States. Moreover in 1950, when all other ports of the United States had a decline in traffic, it was the only port that was still busy and its traffic was increasing.

The port of Savannah from 2000 to 2005 was the most rapidly growing port in the United States. Moreover, in 2007, it became the fastest-growing container terminal in the United States. In the year 2007, a total of 2.3 million TEUs were handled in the port.

As the port of Savannah is so busy, many terminals as well as warehouses of some well-known companies have been built separately in the port to help in the easy transportation of their goods.

5. Northwest Seaport Alliance, Washington

The Northwest seaport alliance is the combination of the port of Seattle and the port of Tacoma. This alliance came into existence on August 4, 2015. This port is the fifth busiest port in the United States. The port of Seattle and the port of Tacoma were opened in 1911 and 1918 respectively. Both the ports were located 51 km apart from each other and the main function was to support the exports and imports of the nation.

During World War ll, both of these ports like many other ports were used as military shipyards and after the war, they returned to function as civilian ports. During the 1960s, with the rise of cargo containers for shipment, both the ports of Seattle and Tacoma started investing in their infrastructure to be able to support the needs of cargo containers. However, when in 1970, the port of Tacoma opened its cargo container-ready facilities, and many shipping lines from the port of Seattle moved here in the next two decades.

The port of Seattle and the port of Tacoma continued to compete against one another to become the busiest port in the region; there were also talks of merging both ports. These talks of merging started to emerge in 1985, however, every time they were put off by the authorities of both ports.

However, on October 7, 2014, both ports finally agreed to go ahead with the merger. The main reason behind the decision to do a merger was the increasing business from ports of British Columbia and other places. To control the operations of ports after the merger, a new organization known as the Port Development Authority was formed and the new port was named the Northwest Seaport Alliance.

The annual cargo container volume of the port is about 3.74 million. The major exports that are carried out from here are industrial machinery, oil seeds and grains, meat, wood and wood products, and vegetable fruits and nuts. Meanwhile, the major imports of the Northwest Seaport Alliance are furniture and machinery. The port provides employment to about 58,000 people.

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