Economy

America's Busiest City for International Trade

Imports and exports represent part of the lifeblood of many of the world’s nations. No country produces everything it needs to support its economy. Recent events have helped choke off the relatively normal trade levels between countries.

The first barrier to normal trade rates is supply chain difficulties. One example that stands out is Apple’s trouble bringing parts it needs from China. One reason for this is a surge of COVID-19 that has lowered chip production. This leaves open the question of whether Apple will have the components to build its iPhones and other products.

The largest problem for the import and export of critical items arises from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions have shut down much of the exports of Russian oil, which is critical to the energy needs of Europe. Wheat from Ukraine, one of the world’s largest producers, also is affected.

Most imports to and exports from the United States travel by ship. Ports are transportation hubs that connect international marine highways to domestic trade routes, and they are often a major source of jobs and revenue in the areas they are located. The busiest ports in America act as key economic infrastructure and can play an important role in national defense and emergency preparedness.

To determine America’s busiest port, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center, compiled by the American Association of Port Authorities. U.S. ports we considered were ranked based on the total amount of incoming and outgoing cargo volume in 2019. All other data came from the American Association of Port Authorities.

Petroleum is America’s principal export, accounting for 12.7% of export good value in 2020. As a result, many of the country’s busiest ports are located in the Gulf Coast states, which, together with federal offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico, account for 70.5% of total U.S. crude oil production.

America’s busiest port is Port of Houston, Texas. Here are the details:

  • Total cargo volume in 2019: 284.9 million tons
  • Foreign trade volume in 2019: 209.8 million tons (73.6% of total)
  • Domestic trade volume in 2019: 75.2 million tons (26.4% of total)


Click here to see all of America’s busiest cities for international trade.

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