Over the past two decades, the concentration of container vessel calls at U.S. ports has shifted, reflecting changes in containerized traffic trends. In 2005, the top five U.S. container ports handled over half (55 percent) of containership calls to and from the United States and 61 percent of the container cargo capacity (table 3).
U.S. maritime ports also handled larger container vessels, measured by the average vessel size per call. The average size (per call) of container vessels calling at U.S. ports was nearly 45,000 deadweight tons (dwt) in 2005, up from 38,000 dwt in 2000 (table 3). By contrast, the average size of container vessels calling at ports worldwide was 34,000 dwt (MARAD 2006). Increases in vessel calls and containership capacity impact port operation, port productivity, and the infrastructure requirements needed to accommodate these mega postpanamax vessels2 as well as the environment and surround-ing community.
In 2004, the U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York-New Jersey (combined) ranked among the world’s top 20 container ports when measured in TEUs, placing 8th, 12th, and 15th, respectively (table 4).
2 Postpanamax ships are too wide to transit the Panama Canal locks. They typically have widths exceeding 32.2 meters (105.6 feet). Recent designs of these vessels are able to carry more than 9,000 TEUs.