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 International Ports in America, Canada and Mexico

Although there are scores of commercial ports in North America, there are less than 40 ports with significant, regularly scheduled "liner" services. Here are some brief notes about the main ports for regularly scheduled international ocean shipping services in North America. These descriptions are made from a North American exporter's point of view, based on the export shipping schedules in SHIPPING DIGEST magazine.
 
East Coast -- North to South
 
Montreal
Although it is located far up the St. Lawrence Seaway, Montreal carriers still offer several scheduled transatlantic services to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Montreal's inland location is actually an advantage U.S. Midwestern shippers sending goods to Europe, because they can save on costs for overland transportation that would be incurred by using ports on the Atlantic. www.port-montreal.com/english/featfr.htm
 
Halifax
Because Halifax is closer to Northern Europe than any other major North American port, several carriers use it as the first inbound port or last outbound port in North America. With good rail and truck connections, Halifax is a gateway for New England and the Midwest, as well as for Eastern Canada. www.portofhalifax.ca/
 
St. John
New Brunswick--Scheduled services are limited, yet St. John has scheduled services to the Caribbean and Latin America with its major tenant, Kent Line. Breakbulk services are also available to Northern Europe. Like other Eastern Canadian ports, St. John is used by U.S. shipper in New England, who can connect with the port via rail or truck. www.sjport.com
 
Boston
Scheduled carriers serve Boston with a mix of direct and transshipment services. Some carriers call Boston inbound from Europe before sailing to New York/New Jersey, making Boston a competitive gateway for New England and even the Midwest. Boston-area shippers can still get Boston bills of lading for shipments that move on coastal feeder services to New York/New Jersey or Halifax. www.massport.com
 
New York/New Jersey
This bi-state port which includes terminals in New York City and across New York Harbor in Elizabeth, N.J. and Newark, N.J. Most scheduled services are from Elizabeth, although some carriers use Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn and Howland Hook Terminal on Staten Island. The intermodal rail connections are in New Jersey; all terminals have extensive trucking options. The Port of New York/New Jersey has more scheduled services to a wider variety of trade lanes than any other port in North America. Virtually every major trade lane is served from the port. It is the leading container volume gateway on the East Coast. www.panynj.gov/index.html
 
Philadelphia
Not a major load center port for liner carriers--mostly because of its proximity to the container terminals of the Port of New York/New Jersey--Philadelphia nevertheless has both container and breakbulk terminals, along with good rail and highway connections. It is especially strong as a Northeast departure point for carriers in the Caribbean islands trades, and for inbound fruit shipments (from Latin America) and meats (from Australia). There have been efforts underway for years to unite Philadelphia and the Port of South Jersey across the Delaware River in Camden, but there is not yet a unified bi-state port along the lines of New York/New Jersey. www.ppc.org
 
Baltimore
Location may be the most important factor in the services offered from the Port of Baltimore. Baltimore is located closer to the Midwest industrial heartland than other major ports. It is about 500 miles from the automakers in the Detroit area--that compares with a trip of more than 650 miles from Detroit to the Port of New York/New Jersey--making Baltimore a premier gateway for auto shipments. That has also attracted other roll-on/roll-off business, because the port has specialized facilities for that cargo. Baltimore also specialized in forest product moves. But it is a major container port, because it feeds its own metro area and nearby cities like Washington and Philadelphia, and because of its proximity to major cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit. www.mpa.state.md.us/
 
Norfolk
In many respects, the container terminals in the Norfolk, Va. Area, which include Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News, have turned their common Hampton Roads access to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean into the New York/New Jersey of the Mid-Atlantic. Many of the carriers offering services out of the Port of New York/New Jersey call one of the Virginia terminals with the same vessels on the same overseas services. It has had extensive rail connections for years from CSX Transportation and namesake Norfolk Southern Railroad. www.vaports.com
 
Wilmington, N.C.
There are a limited number of carriers offering departures from the Port of Wilmington, N.C., yet the services that are available are noteworthy. There is an "all-water" service to the Far East, meaning Far East cargo is not shipped by intermodal rail to West Coast ports. There are also services to the Mediterranean and the Middle East offered by major players in those markets. www.ncports.com
 
Charleston
Not one of the East Coast's major metropolitan areas, Charleston is nevertheless the second busiest containerport on the East Coast, trailing only New York/New Jersey in container volumes. Charleston's advanced port facilities and intermodal connections to shippers throughout the South and Midwest, have prompted many major steamship lines to use Charleston as a South Atlantic load center port. Shippers can choose among several scheduled services from Charleston to all the major trade lanes of the world. Many carriers that call New York/New Jersey call Charleston with the same vessels. There are even a number of services from the Gulf Coast that stop at Charleston as part of transatlantic services. www.port-of-charleston.com
 
Savannah
The Port of Savannah is the largest U.S. South Atlantic gateway for Asian cargo. Providing high-volume retailers with the largest selection of all-water services between Asia and the U.S. East Coast, the Port of Savannah offers 23 all-water Asian service, including six that transit the Suez Canal. With no congestion issues, cargo arriving from Shanghai can arrive in Savannah in as little as 22 days, 24 days from Hong Kong, and 22 days from Nhava Sheva, India. Serviced by two Class I rail providers, CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railroad, and conveniently located only a few miles from I-95 (north / south) and I-16 (east / west), Savannah is one of the most logistically friendly port cities in the nation. Cargo traveling to hinterland destinations such as Cleveland can arrive in as little as two days via truck and three days via rail, Memphis in one day via truck and three days via rail, and Miami in one day via truck and two via rail. www.gaports.com
  
 
 Florida Coast -- East to West 
 
Jacksonville 
Located on Florida's north Atlantic coast, the Port of Jacksonville serves the state and nation as a southeastern focal point for the intermodal movement of commodities on the world market. Port activities are divided between those under the control of the Port Authority and those owned by private interests. Leading cargoes include containerized and roll-on/roll-off general cargo, automobiles, breakbulk cargoes, and dry and liquid bulk products, including petroleum and phosphate. It is a national gateway to Puerto Rico, handling the overwhelming majority of the volumes in that trade. But there are some services available to all the major trade lanes of the world, with extensive choices available to most major international markets. www.jaxport.com
 
Port Canaveral 
Located on the mid-Florida Atlantic coast, Port Canaveral serves both cargo and cruise markets. Primary cargos are liquid (petroleum) and dry (cement and scrap steel) bulk products, and breakbulk, including lumber, salt, newsprint and frozen and fresh citrus. The port is one of the three busiest cruise ports in the world. An operating Foreign Trade Zone offers quadramodal transportation (sea, land, air, and space) and exports the most cargo by dollar value of any in the state. www.portcanaveral.org
 
Port Everglades 
Located near Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, Port Everglades ranks as one of the nation's leading container and cruise ports. It has the deepest harbor south of Norfolk, Virginia, and boasts excellent intermodal connections. It handles breakbulk and containerized cargo, as well as petroleum products, other liquid and bulk cargo, yachts and other boats, vehicles and equipment. With more than 30 cruise ships, this second-busiest cruise port in the world offers one-day, one-night, and a range of 3-night to 103-night cruises. The state's first operating Foreign Trade Zone, used by over 100 businesses, is at the port. The port also has the nation's second-largest non-refinery petroleum storage tank farm, serving 12 counties. It is close to I-95 and has rail connections via the Florida East Coast (FEC) railroad, which interfaces with the national carriers at Jacksonville. www.co.broward.fl.us/port.htm
 
Palm Beach 
The Port of Palm Beach, a niche player in the South Florida container trades, serves as an important distribution center for cargo shipped through the larger ports for transshipment to small ports in the Caribbean and Central America. The port also handles liquid and dry bulk cargoes, including petroleum for two power plants, cement imports, and sugar and molasses exports. The Port of Palm Beach is the main port of Tropical Shipping. Cruises round out port operations. www.portofpalmbeach.com
 
Miami
The Port of Miami once known for its Caribbean and Latin American services, has become an important port for the Europe and Asia trades as well. Because of its location, Miami serves as a transshipment point for cargo moving between Europe and Latin America, and between Asia and Latin America. Miami is the world's busiest cruise port, with a fleet of more than 14 ships homeported, including the newest megaships. One of the country's fastest-growing container ports it also handles breakbulk and general cargo, automobiles, and heavy equipment. www.co.miami-dade.fl.us./portofmiami
 
Tampa
Tampa is a major bulk port, handling phosphate and cement. It is a gateway for citrus fruit charters and is a growing importer of steel. The Port of Tampa has breakbulk liner services to Mexico, Central America and the North Coast of South America, as well as container service that transships cargo at Zim's Kingston hub all over the world. www.tampaport.com
 
Port Manatee
Port Manatee, located on Tampa Bay, is a niche port in terms of its liner service options. The port is home to some carriers specializing in the Central America trade. Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the Panama Canal, Fresh Del Monte Produce's second largest U.S. port facility and the Southeast's leading forestry product import facility. www.portmanatee.com
 
Port of Pensacola
As Florida's most western port, Pensacola handles bagged agricultural products, cement, paper, aggregate, power plant and power generation equipment, animal feed and animal feed components, construction supplies and materials, and frozen cargo. www.portofpensacola.com
 
Port of Panama City
Long recognized as a load center for linerboard and wood pulp, the Port Panama City also handles lumber, steel, machinery, copper and dry and liquid bulk. The Port of Panama City is also recognized for one of the nation's most successful Foreign Trade Zones. FTZ 65 is a "manufacturing" hub covering more than 300 acres. www.portpanamacityusa.com 
 

Gulf Coast -- Southwest to East
 
Tampico
Another load center on Mexico's Gulf Coast, Tampico is a scheduled call for some intercontinental services between the Gulf of Mexico port range and destinations in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and beyond. These services call both Mexico and the U.S., treating the Gulf port range as a single departure region.
 
Veracruz
Mexico's largest port and the first Mexican port to be privatized in the mid-90s, Veracruz is the gateway to Mexico City. It is also a scheduled port of call on several liner services in the Gulf-Europe trade lanes.
 
Port of Altamira
Another load center on Mexico's east coast, the Port of Altamira is the closest Mexican port to the U.S. Gulf and handles containers, liquid bulk, bulk minerals, agribulk and general cargo. www.puertoaltamira.com.mx
 
Port of Brownsville
The Port of Brownsville provides the most efficient services to facilitate the international movement of goods between Mexico and the U.S., linking the land transportation of Mexico with the inland waterway system of the U.S. The port is a staging ground for construction of offshore drilling rigs as well as ship dismantling, steel fabrication, railcar rehabilitation, LPG storage and distribution and waste oil recovery. Cargoes include unfinished and semi-finished steel, liquid bulk terminals and grain handling and storage. www.portofbrownsville.com
 
Port of Corpus Christi
Situated midway on the Texas coast, the Port of Corpus Christi is a major bulk port handling petroleum, dry and liquid bulk including grain and chemicals, and a major staging ground for shipment of military equipment. www.portofcorpuschristi.com
 
Port of Galveston
Located at the mouth of Galveston Bay, the Port of Galveston has become a major load center for rolling stock, and also containers, dry and liquid bulk, and breakbulk, refrigerated and project cargoes. www.portofgalveston.com
 
Freeport
A niche port for the Central America trade, Freeport is the Texas gateway for the liner carriers Dole Ocean Liner Express (DOLE) and Chiquita Brands International's shipping company Great White Fleet. Freeport is also a staging ground for project cargo and has an active foreign trade zone. www.portfreeport.com
 
Houston
As the largest city on the Gulf Coast and one of the largest cities in the U.S., Houston is by far the largest "load center" port for scheduled services from the Gulf Coast, Houston offers a variety of container, breakbulk, and heavy-lift/project cargo services. There are extensive services available to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, South America, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Africa. Although Houston's location keeps it out of the transpacific trades for the most part, most major transpacific carriers maintain offices in Houston, and supervise intermodal rail moves from Houston to Southern California, where Houston-area shippers connect with carriers serving the Asian trades. The Port of Houston Authority (PHA) also manages the nearby Port of Galveston. www.portofhouston.com
 
Port of Port Arthur
The Port of Port Arthur handles a range of forest products that include newsprint, linerboard, wood pulp, paperboard, plywood and lumber. Equipped to handle any type of breakbulk or general cargo, the port also offers open storage and rail accommodations for metals and direct rail transfer for roll-on, roll-off cargo. www.portofportarthur.com
 
Port of Beaumont
A longtime hub for staging military cargo scheduled for deployment overseas or returning from foreign duty, the Port of Beaumont is also a major handler of forest products, grains, project cargo, bagged goods, aggregate, metals and wood chips. www.portofbeaumont.com
 
Port of Lake Charles 
The Port of Lake Charles is the 16th largest seaport in the U.S., the 4th largest liner service seaport in the U.S. Gulf and a major West Gulf container load center, handling bagged rice, flour and other food products, paper products, plywood, petroleum coke and other petroleum products, woodchips, barites, and rutile. www.portlc.com
 
New Orleans
Many major scheduled carriers offer services from New Orleans. There are also a number of successful niche carriers operating from the port. Despite of its considerable container shipping business, New Orleans has put a heavy emphasis on breakbulk services, providing specialized warehouses and terminals for carriers who move general cargo ranging from steel and specialty metals to forest products and frozen food. It has exceptional rail connections, prompting shippers from as far away as the Pacific Northwest and New England to use New Orleans as a port for shipments in the north-south trades. www.portno.com
 
Port of Pascagoula
The Port of Pascagoula exports forest and paper products, frozen foods, general cargo, project cargo, bulk and bagged grains, machinery, vehicles, fertilizer, petroleum products, petroleum coke, and petrochemicals. Imports include general cargo, chemicals, forest products, bulk fish, rubber and crude oil. www.portofpascagoula.com
 
Gulfport
This Mississippi port has developed into a strong niche port for liner carriers specializing in handling fruit shipments for major food companies involved in the Central American trades for bananas and other tropical fruits. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Gulfport has accelerated its master plan to rebuild breakbulk cargo handling facilities and storage sheds for frozen foods. www.mdot.state.ms.us./ports/gulfhome.htm
 
Alabama State Port Authority
Alabama's state-controlled port has traditionally specialized in moving bulk cargoes such as coal and breakbulk cargoes such as forest products and wood pulp. The state's growing auto manufacturing industry has created a growing volume of project and container cargo, while new investment by private interests has made the port a hub for frozen poultry exports. www.asdd.com 
 
West Coast -- South to North
 
Long Beach
The highest-volume container port in the U.S., Long Beach is the Southern California gateway for many of the global carriers in the U.S./Asia trades. Because Long Beach has established itself as a key load center for many global carriers, it has also made inroads into the Europe and South America trades, although the transpacific is by far its main market. www.polb.com
 
Los Angeles
Located immediately adjacent to the Port of Long Beach, with an imaginary line through San Pedro Bay separating the two shipping giants, Los Angeles in the second-ranked port in the U.S. in terms of container volumes. It specializes in the U.S./Asia trades, but is also the main port in the U.S. for shipments to Australia/New Zealand, and hosts carriers in the Latin America and Europe trades, as well. www.portoflosangeles.org
 
Oakland
The primary port for Northern California, Oakland has become one of the busiest containerports in the U.S. because it is a load center for carriers in the U.S./Asia trade, the single busiest trade lane in the world. Oakland has developed the extensive container-handling infrastructure that has allowed it to dominate the San Francisco Bay gateway. www.portofoakland.com
 
San Francisco
Although it does not compare to Oakland in terms of volumes, a handful of scheduled services operate from the Port of San Francisco. Those include carriers serving the West Coast of South America, as well as the South Pacific islands. San Francisco had become an important port in the Australia/New Zealand trade, but those carriers transferred to Oakland in 2001 as the result of a multicarrier vessel sharing agreement. www.sfport.com 
 
Portland
As a Pacific Northwest metropolitan area, Portland has attracted a number of major carriers in the transpacific container trades. It has also developed specialized auto handling terminals, attracting carriers involved in that market. Portland is also an important gateway for the shippers who move products by barge on the Columbia-Snake River system. www.portofportland.com/pophome.htm
 
Tacoma
One of the two load center ports accessible via the Puget Sound, Tacoma has become the Pacific Northwest call for several major global carriers in the transpacific trades. It has an excellent seaport infrastructure, and has good intermodal rail connections, with an intermodal rail yard just off the port. It also has quick access to Interstate 5, with less congestion than the population center of Seattle. www.portoftacoma.com
 
Seattle
The largest gateway of the Pacific Northwest, most of Seattle's cargo is from the Japan, Korea and China trades. The Puget Sound is much closer to Northeast Asia than the California ports, so many shippers and carriers use Seattle as their gateway between the U.S. and the Far East. It also has good highway and rail connections for intermodal moves throughout the U.S. and Canada. www.portofseattle.org
 
Vancouver
The single Pacific Coast gateway for Canadian liner services, Vancouver, is served by several major carriers in the transpacific trades. It also has limited services to Europe. The Port of Vancouver, British Columbia is the only Pacific Northwest port called by major liner carriers. The Port of Vancouver, Washington, located across the river from the Port of Portland, does not have liner services. www.portvancouver.com