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Port capacity by 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) at U.S. ports declined 5.8% between 2019 and 2021, while total TEU capacity in 2022 was even lower than previous years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics' 2023 Port Performance Freight Statistics Program annual report.
Monthly TEU capacity fell by an average of 1.94 million in 2019 to 1.69 million in 2022, or 6.7%, according to the report.
However, TEU throughput increased during the same period. Monthly TEU throughput at select U.S. container ports peaked in May 2022 at 4.7 million, up 58.5% from March 2020's low of 3 million. East Coast and Gulf ports also outpaced West Coast ports between January 2019 and August 2022, where the ports of New York and New Jersey, Virginia, Savannah and Houston outpaced throughput of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland.
U.S. goods imports grew by nearly $506 billion, or 21.5%, in 2021 compared to 2020, while exports grew by more than $329 billion, or 23%. Cargo values peaked in May 2022 at more than $205 billion, more than double the recorded low of $100 billion in May 2020.
The nation recorded nearly $6 trillion total in exports and imports of goods and services in 2021. U.S. ports logged $4.6 trillion, or 77.4% of the total, in import and export goods in 2021, up from $3.8 trillion in 2020.
Waterborne vessels handled more than $1.5 trillion in U.S.-international freight in 2020, more than 40% of total U.S.-international freight value. Waterborne vessels also carried nearly 1.5 billion tons of U.S.-international freight, or 70% of total trade weight, in 2020, according to the report.
"Growth in U.S.-international trade accelerated at an unprecedented pace in response to the spike in consumer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic," the report states.
The report also listed the top 25 ports by total tonnage, dry bulk tonnage and TEU volume. The top three ports for each respective ranking were Houston, South Louisiana and Corpus Christi; South Louisiana, New Orleans and Plaquemines, Louisiana; and Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York and New Jersey.