Gulf Coast Ports Dominate Latest Tonnage Rankings

Port Houston is No. 1 in tonnage and Texas is No. 1 for overall waterborne commerce.

If you’re looking for business intelligence about waterborne cargo, there’s no better place than the Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Institute for Water Resources, which just released its annual tonnage report for 2022. Here are the top 10 ports by number of short tons of cargo:

1 Houston Port Authority, TX 293,833,530
2 South Louisiana, LA, Port of 226,188,142
3 Corpus Christi, TX 174,327,410
4 New York, NY & NJ 141,290,423
5 Port of Long Beach, CA 92,958,926
6 New Orleans, LA 83,254,102
7 Beaumont, TX 74,342,746
8 Port of Greater Baton Rouge, LA 73,371,577
9 Virginia, VA, Port of 69,433,624
10 Lake Charles Harbor District, LA 64,107,156

No. 1 Port Houston reported two weeks ago that container volumes shot up by 15% during the first quarter of this year compared to Q1 2023, to 1,069,917 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). March was the port’s biggest March ever at 360,991 TEUs. The port reported that appliances and furniture led rising import volumes while resins led loaded export volumes.

Consumer spending on items like furniture and appliances contributed to loaded import volumes that were up 23% this March compared to the same month last year and 14% year-to-date. Loaded export volumes, which are primarily resins, have also increased by 12% in March and 15% for the year, totaling 404,124 TEUs year-to-date. Total tonnage across all of Port Houston’s terminals is up 4% through March, totaling 13,422,452 tons year-to-date.

“The improvements we continue to make at our facilities, combined with a committed workforce, have allowed us to efficiently handle the double-digit growth in both imports and exports during the first quarter,” said Roger Guenther, executive Director at Port Houston.



After No. 1 Houston, four Louisiana ports make the list, with the Port of Lake Charles just beating out the Port of Los Angeles for the No. 10 spot. Site Selection over the years has published a number of its branded Investment Profiles about the area, including “Welcome to America’s Power Plant” in the March 2024 issue, “Better and Stronger Than Before” in March 2021 and “Diversity Drives Region” in March 2009.

The Port of Lake Charles (Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District) handled 64.2 million short tons of cargo in 2022, a 32.7% increase over the previous year at the 203-square mile district. It’s in the heart of the No. 1 LNG export area in the world. A 2021 study found marine cargo along the Calcasieu Ship Channel supports $39 billion of total economic value to the U.S. economy, with $29.9 billion in Louisiana and $12 billion in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes.

Among the tabs in the Waterborne Commerce spreadsheet is one listing top states by overall waterborne commerce, ranked by 1,000s of tons:

1. Texas 651,711,114
2. Louisiana 526,510,201
3. California 238,154,138
4. New Jersey 149,774,183
5. Washington 107,199,974
6. Florida 101,935,699
7. Kentucky 77,623,950
8. Illinois 72,402,840
9. Virginia 72,176,506
10. Alabama 64,969,066

Some credit for Texas being tops can go to its network of foreign-trade zones, as documented in Site Selection’s November 2023 issue.

Total U.S. waterborne tonnage for 2022 came to more than 2.3 trillion tons. — Adam Bruns

Ground was broken last week for the final phase of harbor deepening and for beach nourishment in Norfolk, Virginia, in the Hampton Roads region that is home to No. 9-ranked Port of Virginia.

Photo by Ana Allen courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Institute for Water Resources