10 Busiest U.S. Ports in 2024 (and How to Choose One)


In its 2022 Review of Maritime Transport, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) states that marine vessels carried more than 80 percent of global trade cargo volumes in 2022. This illustrates maritime transportation’s overwhelming impact on international commerce — an impact that’s only growing. 

Seaports exist on either end of every maritime shipment. Within them, cargo (containerized, dry bulk, breakbulk, roll-on-roll-off (ro/ro), etc.) is delivered, handled, transferred and stored prior to, and following, transport. 

This is a big business, particularly within the U.S. where — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 41.1 percent (over $1.8 trillion) of the U.S.’ international trade value was handled by ports in 2021. In 2020 alone, more than 1,700 million tons of cargo moved through U.S. ports.

With these numbers in mind, it’s safe to assume most businesses interact with a seaport at some point. When you do — whether it's for importing cargo or exporting it — you need to understand your options (and what to think about when choosing a port). 

Here at ATS International, as a licensed Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) and international project freight forwarder, we work with North America’s ports frequently. In turn, we understand what each port is known for and spend our time analyzing them in pursuit of selecting the best one for our customers. 

This article lists the 10 busiest seaports in the U.S. according to the twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) volumes they reported in 2022. Additionally, at the end of this article, you’ll learn three important things for you and your transportation provider(s) to think about when selecting your freight’s port of import and/or departure. 

10 Busiest U.S. Ports in 2024

  1. Port of Los Angeles
  2. Port of New York & New Jersey
  3. Port of Long Beach
  4. Port of Savannah
  5. Port Houston
  6. Port of Virginia
  7. Port of Seattle-Tacoma
  8. Ports of South Carolina (Charleston, Georgetown)
  9. Port of Oakland
  10. Port of Baltimore

Port of Los Angeles 


The Port of Los Angeles has worn the title of “Busiest Port in North America” for more than 20 years. Over its history, the Port of Los Angeles has efficiently handled the highest volume of containerized cargo of any in the Western Hemisphere. Investments in sustainability, technology, its facilities and its intermodal infrastructure have made the Port of Los Angeles one of the most successful in the world. Here is a map of its port terminals and facilities.

*2022 TEUs: 9,911,159 

Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): -14.53%

*2022 Total Imports: 5,015,315 (2,227,949 loaded)

*2022 Total Exports: 4,895,844 (560,254 loaded)

*According to the Port of Los Angeles’ 2022 Container Statistics

Check out the Port of Los Angeles Historical Container Statistics

Visit the Port of Los Angeles’ website

Port of New York & New Jersey

The Port of New York & New Jersey is known for providing a gateway to and from the North/Northwest U.S. and one of the more concentrated markets in the world. With more than 100 years of history, the Port of New York & New Jersey is the largest and busiest on the U.S. East Coast, handling nearly $200 billion of containerized cargo in 2020. For more information on the port and its astounding saga, visit its history page here.

*2022 TEUs: 9,493,664

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): +5.7%

*2022 Total Imports: 4,825,075 (4,804,436 loaded)

*2022 Total Exports: 4,668,589 (1,299,070 loaded)

*According to the Port of New York & New Jersey Port Facts and Figures

Visit the Port of New York & New Jersey’s website

Port of Long Beach


(Photo by the Port of Long Beach)

The Port of Long Beach is one of the busiest ports in the world, consistently handling more than $200 billion in trade value annually. Goods intended for, and originating from, every corner of the U.S. are handled through this port. Today, the Port of Long Beach has connections to 217 of the world’s seaports and continually invests in its infrastructure and facilities. Here is the Port’s information page for a more detailed breakdown.

*2022 TEUs: 9,133,657

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): -2.67%

*2022 Total Imports: 4,526,997 (4,358,789 loaded)

*2022 Total Exports: 4,606,660 (1,414,882 loaded)

*According to the Port of Long Beach’s Port Statistics

Visit the Port of Long Beach’s website

Port of Savannah

The Port of Savannah is governed and managed by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) — an organization in charge of Georgia’s two deepwater ports (Savannah and Brunswick) as well as its inland terminals in Columbus, Bainbridge and Chatsworth. The Port of Savannah is the site of two deepwater terminals (Garden City and Ocean) which handle thousands of container shipments to and from the U.S. via marine vessels every day. In fact, the Port of Savannah’s Garden City terminal ranks as the U.S.’ fourth busiest container-handling facility. For more information on the Port of Savannah, visit the GPA’s “about us” webpage.

*2022 TEUs: 5,892,131

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): +4.97%

*2022 Total Imports: 2,927,390 (2,873,100 loaded)

*2022 Total Exports: 2,964,741 (1,348,850 loaded)

*According to the Port of Savannah Cargo Volume Import Numbers

View Georgia Ports Authority’s By The Numbers Resources

Port Houston


(Photo from the Port of Houston)

Port Houston is located on the Houston Ship Channel and operates eight terminals along this 52-mile band. In addition to its two highly-efficient container facilities, Port Houston runs one of the largest Breakbulk terminals in the U.S. and has an over 100-year history of investing in technologies to make its operations more efficient. Learn more about Port Houston’s history, leadership, capabilities and impact.

*2022 TEUs: ​​3,974,901

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): +14%

*According to Port Houston’s Cargo Volume Press Release from 2022

Visit Port Houston’s Website

Port of Virginia

Located in Norfolk, and governed by the Virginia Port Authority, the Port of Virginia operates a total of six terminals. With the goal of becoming the “U.S. East Coast’s leading gateway for global trade,” the Port of Virginia plans to invest $1.5 billion in its terminals and infrastructure between 2015 and 2025. In the end, this will make the port more efficient and impact the lives of millions of U.S. workers.

*2022 TEUs: 3,695,156

Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): +14.7%

*2022 Loaded Imports: 1,768,850

*2022 Loaded Exports: 1,045,765

*Vessel Calls in 2022: 1,471

*According to the Port of Virginia’s Annual Report for 2022

Visit the Port of Virginia’s website

Port of Seattle-Tacoma (The Northwest Seaport Alliance)


The Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma, located on Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean), are operated by the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) and are leading U.S. container ports. Initially established in 2015, the NWSA is comprised of representatives from both ports who share a vision for innovation and growth. Learn more about the NWSA and these partner seaports here.

*2022 TEUs: 3,384,018

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): -9.43%

*2022 Loaded Imports: 1,258,631

*2022 Loaded Exports: 555,556

*2022 Empty Import/Exports: 835,355

*Vessel Calls: 1,729

*According to the Northwest Seaport Alliance 2022 Report

Visit the Northwest Seaport Alliance website

Ports of South Carolina (Charleston, Georgetown)

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) operates one sea terminal in Charleston and another in Georgetown. Together, these ports consistently handle (import and export) millions of TEUs each year and support “1 in 10 jobs statewide.” Recently, the SCPA has invested billions of dollars to enhance each port’s capacity capabilities and drive modernization. Visit the SCPA’s “about the port” page for more information. 

*2022 TEUs: 2,853,046

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): +11.93%

*2022 Loaded Imports: 1,411,993

*2022 Loaded Exports: 716,540

*According to South Carolina Ports’ 2022 Annual Report

Visit the South Carolina Ports website

Related Content: 8 Best Warehousing and Transloading Providers in Charleston, SC


Port of Oakland


Founded in 1927, the Port of Oakland is Northern California’s premier seaport. Today, the Port of Oakland is comprised of three container terminals and shipping channels dredged to accommodate vessels with capacity up to 18,000 TUEs. 

*2022 TEUs: 2,337,125

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): -4.50%

*2022 Loaded Imports: 990,820

*2022 Loaded Exports: 760,796

*Port of Oakland Facts and Figures webpage

Port of Oakland website

Port of Baltimore

The Port of Baltimore is known for its efficient operating procedures in the handling of containerized products, ro/ro equipment/materials, forest products and project cargo (to name a few). The Port of Baltimore is governed by the Maryland Port Authority and features six maritime terminals that handle the flow of products through the U.S.’ eastern seaboard via the Chesapeake Bay. 

*2022 TEUs: 1,069,421

*Percent TEU Change (2021-2022): -9.48%

*2022 Loaded Imports: 535,899

*2022 Loaded Exports: 243,209

*According to the Port of Baltimore’s reported cargo statistics

Visit the Maryland Port Authority website

How to Select a Port For Your Shipment (4 Considerations)

Now you know which U.S. ports deal with the most container shipments each year. You also have a jump-off point for your research into them. It’s important for the port you select to fit your transportation concept perfectly. Choosing the incorrect port of import/export could cost you money by increasing your inland transportation expenses. You could also miss your arrival deadlines without using the optimal port. 

To align your port of export/import with your cargo’s transportation concept and goals, here are three things you (and your transportation provider) need to consider:

  1. Your freight’s origin and destination
  2. Your target delivery date and budget
  3. The size of your cargo

1. Your Freight’s Origin and Destination

Where your cargo is coming from and going to will weigh heavily into its port of import/export. For example, a western port (like the Port of Los Angeles) is usually best for containerized cargo destined for China — to a port like Hankou or Guangzhou. There are direct maritime trade lanes between these ports, offering your cargo a direct route to its destination country. 

Related: Standard vs. Routed Export Shipments: A Comprehensive Breakdown


2. Your Target Delivery Date and Budget

Your freight’s origin and destination are the first variables you should consider when planning its route. But don’t stop there. If that same shipment (destined for China) is originating in Boston, Massachusetts, using a California port because it’s closest to China will be really expensive. Generally speaking, domestic trucking prices add up quickly, even for a single twenty-foot container. 

This is why your delivery date/time must also be considered. If timing allows, in this scenario, you’d be better off shipping your cargo from a port closer to Boston. While this could potentially add weeks to your transit time, you won’t need to pay through the nose for on-carriage expenses to move freight across the country. 

3. How Large is Your Cargo?

This final point applies more to ro/ro and breakbulk shipments than it does to containerized goods. You see, as a shipment’s size increases, so do the expenses associated with moving it. Your options for getting cargo from A to B also dwindle. 

As such, if you have oversize/overweight ro/ro or breakbulk cargo to import/export, you’ll want to consider things like permitting, utility/escort services, crane appointments (at the port) and route/travel restrictions. These will all impact your price differently depending on the port you select. 

Also, the infrastructure in the eastern/northeastern U.S. is less permissive of OSOW freight movement than other portions of the country. Generally speaking, bridges are lower, streets are narrower and corners are sharper in this part of the U.S. 

As such, depending on your shipment’s dimensions, it might not be possible to use certain ports due to the realities of routing it to your destination or from its origin.

Related: Customs Clearance Process When Importing Freight Into the U.S.

Your Next Steps Toward International Shipping Mastery

Selecting the right U.S. port for your shipment is crucial to meeting your deadline and sticking to your budget. Unfortunately, whether you work with a freight forwarder or manage this alone, making this decision isn’t always easy. 

In this article, you learned about the 10 busiest ports in 2024 and gained some insights into each of them. All 10 of these ports can help you efficiently move your cargo. There are also plenty more, so make sure you do your own research.

To choose the optimal port, you need to consider your freight’s origin and destination, your desired timelines and budget and your freight’s size. None of these variables can be overlooked. Be sure to reach out to a knowledgeable freight forwarder if you have any questions (ATS International is also happy to help). 

Where your freight enters and exits the U.S. impacts the price you pay to move it. There are a lot of other factors to consider though. 

To make sure you understand all of the variables influencing your international freight rates, your next step is to readWhat Does International Shipping Cost?” 

If you have any questions about your next international shipment, please don’t hesitate to contact our team here. We have decades of in-house international expertise and are excited to help you on your journey toward becoming the supply that always delivers for its customers.

Tags: International Shipping, ATS International

Carl Verdon

Written by Carl Verdon

Carl has been working for ATS International, in various capacities, for more than 13 years. During this time, Carl's dedication to maintaining industry-leading service levels has helped customers move cargos around the world and back again... hundreds of times over. Today, as a customer service and sales manager, Carl enjoys the unique challenge that each international shipment presents as he works with his team to promote the ATS name on a global scale.

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