The U.S. merchant fleet comprised nearly 1,800 ships in 2022. Their combined carrying capacity reached more than 54.3 million deadweight tons that year. Globally, the U.S. operated 2.6 percent of the world merchant fleet and ranked 11th behind seafaring nations like Greece, China, and Japan.
Slight decrease in cargo throughput in 2020In 2020, more than 2.2 billion short tons of cargo passed through U.S. ports, a decrease of almost six percent compared with 2019. The Atlantic coast was the main gateway for the U.S. waterborne trade; in 2020, goods valued at nearly 664 billion U.S. dollars passed through the ports on the Atlantic coast. The majority of these goods were imports and exports into and out of Europe.
However, the largest U.S. port in terms of total cargo throughput is the Port of Houston, located in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2020, the Port of Houston processed almost 276 million short tons of waterborne cargo.
U.S. international trade deficitThe U.S. container trade is imbalanced and skewed heavily towards imports. Between January and October 2021, imports accounted for over 76 percent of the total value of U.S. container trade. Due to the fact that China is the largest overseas trade partner of the U.S., most container traffic flows through the U.S. Pacific coast. In 2020, the Californian ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were the largest U.S. ports in terms of container throughput.
The Port of Los Angeles handled nearly 6.5 million containers, while the Port of Long Beach had a turnover of over 5.7 million TEUs in 2020. Unsurprisingly, these ports have the most sophisticated infrastructure of all other U.S. ports. Los Angeles and Long Beach ports each possess eight container terminals with over 60 container cranes. Moreover, the ports are well connected to the rail network, making them a valuable link in U.S. freight intermodal transport.