Updated on April 23, 2022
Seaports are the gateways to international trade. They are the hubs of global commerce that control the flow of goods between countries oceans away, and often the lifeblood of local economies as well. 2021 brought a revived interest in seaports and their operations, as a sudden boom in consumer demand caused a surge in shipping volumes and created a bottleneck in many major ports. Below we present the 10 busiest ports in the U.S and the world by container volume, as measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).
Note: Data is provided for 2020 TEU, with projections for 2021 based on volume estimates for November and December.
9.2 million TEU (2020) → 10.8 million+ projected for 2021
Also known as “America’s Port,” the Port of Los Angeles has ranked as the busiest in the U.S. for 20 years and currently handles approximately 20% of all cargo entering the country. It is a primary destination for trans-Pacific trade partners (China, Japan, Vietnam) and a major economic driver both regionally and nationally, with over 1 million employees in the L.A. metro alone.
8.1 million TEU (2020) → 9.3 million+ projected for 2021
A close second to the Port of Los Angeles in container volume, is the nearby Port of Long Beach. Both ports are located in the San Pedro Bay and have historically competed for containerized cargo through long term agreements with large shipping lines. The Port of Long Beach also boasts a variety of eco-friendly initiatives aimed at reducing air emissions and improving water quality in the harbor.
The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest on the U.S. East Coast and serves as a primary hub for freight arriving from Europe, India, and China. The port includes six container terminals and a system of navigable waterways that covers 770 miles of shoreline around New York City and northern New Jersey.
4.7 million TEU (2020) → 4.6 million+ projected for 2021
The Port of Savannah is a major gateway to inland destinations in the U.S. thanks to two on-terminal rail facilities, providing direct lines to Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, Charlotte, and Orlando. The port also hosts the largest single-terminal container facility in North America.
3.3 million TEU (2020) → 3.7 million+ projected for 2021
The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) was established in 2015 as the merger of Puget Sound’s two largest ports, Seattle and Tacoma. The ports serve as a major gateway between Asia and the Midwest / Ohio Valley regions of the U.S.
2.9 million TEU (2020)→ 3.4 million+ projected for 2021
The Port of Houston is home to the largest petrochemical manufacturing complex in the Americas and leads the U.S. in waterborne tonnage. Crude oil and chemicals are the main imports and exports moved through the port, although it has recently been used as an alternative to backlogged West Coast ports for other types of cargo as well.
2.8 million TEU (2020), → 3.5 million+ projected for 2021
Hosting six marine terminals and the largest intermodal rail port on the East Coast, the Port of Virginia is another major hub for inland destinations. The Port of Virginia is also the only North American port to own its own chassis pool, which has allowed them to better manage chassis availability and avoid major backlogs and delays like those seen at West Coast ports throughout 2021.
The Port of Oakland is located in the San Francisco Bay and in 1962 became the first West Coast port to build terminals for container ships. It became the second largest port in the world by container tonnage within a few years, but depth and navigation restrictions in the Bay Area became too limiting for larger ships. Ultimately this drove ship lines further south to Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, which have remained the busiest ports for decades.
Volume: 2.3 million TEU (2020)→ 2.7 million+ projected for 2021
South Carolina Ports operates the ports of Charleston and Georgetown, as well as the inland ports of Greer and Dillion. In addition to providing access to U.S. inland rail hubs, port operations are a major contributor to the local economy - claiming to create 1 in 10 jobs in the state of South Carolina.
1 million TEU (2020) → 1.2 million+ projected for 2021
The Port of Miami is the largest passenger port in the world, but it is a growing cargo destination as well. The port has invested more than $1 billion for improvements to its cargo services, and continues to be an important hub for freight from Latin America and Europe.
43.5 million TEU (2020)
The port of Shanghai is located where the Yangtze River meets the East China Sea and is a source of significant economic activity in the region. Nearly a quarter of international trade from China is moved through Shanghai and numbers continue to climb, with the first half of 2021 showing 14% growth year-to-date.
36.6 million TEU (2020)
The port of Singapore was heralded as the busiest in the world until 2010, when Shanghai moved into the top spot. Despite that fact, the port plays a significant role in the transshipment and re-export market and is responsible for nearly 50% of the global crude oil supply. The port is also undergoing a massive expansion, due to be completed by 2027, which will allow it to handle a massive 65 million TEUs per year.
28.7 million TEU (2020)
Directly across the Hangzhou Bay from Shanghai is another major Chinese port, Ningbo-Zhoushan. The port has often led the world in total container tonnage handled annually, and manages mostly imports and manufactured goods from the Americas and Oceania.
26.6 million TEU (2020)
The port of Shenzhen is situated on the delta of the River Pearl in the Guangdong province and is a major hub for the south China mainland. Numerous terminals in the district are listed under this port, but Yantian is by far the busiest and accounts for over half the volume out of Shenzhen.
23.2 million TEU (2020)
Guangzhou port is the largest comprehensive port in South China and is known as the “Silk Road on the Sea.” It consists of an astounding 4,600 berths and specializes in the transfer of coal.
21.6 million TEU (2020)
The Port of Busan includes four South Korean terminals and was originally built for small-scale local trade with other Asian countries. It currently exports automobile components, circuits, and refined petroleum to its largest partners in the U.S., China, Vietnam, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Qingdao Port is located in the Yellow Sea of northeastern China and is split into four parts: Guangdong Oil, Qianwan, Dagang, and Dongjiakou. It is best known for its capabilities handling dry bulk vessels and crude oil.
The Port of Hong Kong sits on the coastline of the South China Sea and services large volumes of finished manufactured goods. Its deep waters make it ideal for handling vessels of all sizes and it is known to be highly efficient and organized.
18.6 million TEU (2020)
The port of Tianjin (formerly Port of Tanggu) is China’s largest man-made seaport and a main gateway to the northern part of the country, including Beijing.
Rotterdam reigned as the largest port in the world between 1962 - 2004, and remains the busiest port in Europe. In addition serving as a major global hub for the continent, the Port of Rotterdam is a major proponent for sustainability and environmental responsibility in maritime trade.
2021 was a record-breaking year for seaports worldwide, both in volume and revenue. This has presented challenges to container capacity and inflated freight rates and has forced supply chain planners to consider new suppliers, trade routes and freight partners. FreightMango is helping shippers navigate the changing market and providing innovative solutions for LCL and FCL freight. Contact us today for a free consultation and demo of our digital freight marketplace!