U.S. exports are almost certain to hit a record high in 2012, remaining one of the anchors of the nation’s economic recovery. For ports and other trade hubs, that means higher profits and more jobs. In keeping with the global economy, the nation’s trade nexus touches the four corners of America’s borders. The 2-decade-old free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is certainly a defining factor, as is the newer influence of emerging markets in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Some of the biggest freights hubs might surprise you. For example, the Port of Los Angeles is the leading gateway overall for international trade, while the land border crossing of Detroit handled a total of $120 billion in surface freight. From January through December 2010, more than $1.8 trillion worth of goods moved through U.S. transportation facilities, according to research from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Click ahead to see the list of busiest U.S. land, water and air trade hubs, based on value of shipments.
By Jessica NaziriPosted 23 April 2012
Sources: Bureau of Transportation’s Statistics of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration rankings (2010) and individual gateways (2007, 2010, 2011).
Type: Water Gateway
Imports: $30.8 billion
Exports: $19.4 billion
This port is a major gateway for imports from South America and exports to Europe. In 2007, Brazil was the largest import market, and Germany the major destination for exports.
Major items imported and exported include, grain, steel and iron ore. In 2008, Charleston’s port handled more than 1.3 million containers, accounting for about 5 percent of total U.S. containerized freight.
Imports: $23.9 billion
Exports: $31.7 billion
The El Paso land border is an important entry point to the U.S. from Mexico, with nearly $24 billion worth of exports shipped through the transit node in 2010. Major exports to customers south of the border include vehicles, electrical machinery and computer-related machinery parts.
Furniture, electrical machinery, and measuring and testing parts are top U.S. imports in terms of value from Mexico through El Paso. Turkey, Israel and Japan are a few countries that get goods through El Paso. Plastics, mineral fuels such as oil and waxes were some of the top commodities imported through El Paso in 2010, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Imports: $35 billion
Exports: $22.7 billion
Venezuela was the top origin country for imports in 2007, and Japan was the leading destination for exports. Chemicals, coal, timber and copper are among the top traded items. In 2008, merchandise trade handled at New Orleans accounted for about 6 percent of the total U.S. international waterborne tonnage.
Type: Water Gateway
Imports: $34.4 billion
Exports: $24.2 billion
The port is a major gateway for imports from South and Central America and the Caribbean. Most exports go to Asian countries; China is No. 1. By tonnage, Trinidad and Tobago was the top origin country for imports in 2008. Major imports, on a container basis, include machinery, appliances, furniture, electronics and housewares. The leading export items include wood pulp, food and paper board. The port handled 2.1 million containers in 2008.
Imports: $35.3 billion
Exports: $37.4 billion
Buffalo–Niagara Falls is an international gateway that serves almost every state. About 82 percent of the value of truck freight passing through Buffalo–Niagara Falls originates or terminates outside New York. The top three states served by land transportation facilities in Buffalo–Niagara Falls were New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, accounting for 40 percent of the merchandise trade transported through the gateway in 2008.
Imports: $38.7 billion
Exports: $34.7 billion
The top three states served by this land-based facility were Michigan, Illinois and Texas, accounting for 49 percent of the merchandise trade transported through Port Huron in 2008. Merchandise trade passing through Port Huron ($81 billion) accounted for 10 percent of the value of U.S. total land trade.
Imports: $40.5 billion
Exports: $36.9 billion
The majority of cargo that arrives at this airport is in the holds of passenger aircraft. Major origin-destination markets are South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The top commodities exported through LAX are vegetables, fruits and nuts. The leading imported commodity is apparel, followed by computer equipment. In 2008, about 10 percent of the value of all U.S. international air freight moved through LAX.
Imports: $56.6 billion
Exports: $31.8 billion
East Asian trade accounts for more than 90 percent of the shipments through this port; top trading partners by tonnage include China, Iraq, Ecuador and Indonesia. Some of the imports are crude oil, electronics, plastics and furniture. Top exports are petroleum, chemicals and waste paper. In 2010, the port moved more than $140 billion in goods.
Imports: $75.3 billion
Exports: $35.3 billion
Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany are the top three import and export destinations through Chicago's O’Hare and Midway airports. Total international merchandise trade through the airports was valued at $97 billion in 2008.
Imports: $48.2 billion
Exports: $62.8 billion
This border facility is served by highways, railroads and pipelines, with trucking the No. 1 mode of transportation. The top three import-export states were Michigan, Ohio and California, accounting for 48 percent of all trade in 2008.
Imports: $63.7 billion
Exports: $57.3 billion
Thousands of commercial trucks cross from Mexico into this city, using the World Trade Bridge, the most important truck crossing on the U.S.-Mexican border. Petroleum and petroleum products pass both ways. The top three states served by Laredo’s facilities are Michigan, California and, of course, Texas. Venezuela and Algeria are also big markets.
Imports: $60.2 billion
Exports: $70.7 billion
Petroleum and derivative products are the leading commodities handled at the port. Central America and the Caribbean account for 23 percent of the port’s export destinations. Mexico is both the No. 1 import and export partner. In 2010, the port handled 228.9 million tons of cargo.
Imports: $77.7 billion
Exports: $81.9 billion
Items such as machinery and woven apparel are the top two imports through JFK. In January 2009, China was the top import partner, while the U.K. was top in exports. JFK handled more than 900,000 tons of international air cargo in 2008.
Imports $125.1 billion
Exports: $46.3 billion
Items such as beverages, plastics and furniture account for the largest imports based on cargo tonnage. Almost 28 percent of the port’s imports/export trade in 2009 was with China; India ranked No. 2. The Port of New York and New Jersey handled 5.3 million loaded and unloaded 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in the most recent year.
Import: $202.6 billion
Exports: $33.7 billion
Over the past decade, this port has moved more containers than any other in the nation, more than doubling its volume. Almost 90 percent of the port’s trade is with the Far East, with China ranked the No. 1. Furniture is the biggest containerized import based on tonnage; paper, paperboard and wastepaper is the top export category. Some 150,233 autos were handled in 2010. The port’s cargo terminals handled an 7.9 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent container units) in 2011.