Modern containers carry numerous commodities, from sweaters, blouses, and flat-screen televisions to computer equipment, wood, and paper products. Containers have reduced the cost of safely transporting such goods as children's toys, clothing, and electronics from factories halfway across the globe to neighborhood discount stores across America, and cut the time it takes to load and unload the large vessels used in transporting these goods. Similarly, tons of frozen meats and manufactured machinery and parts from all across the United States are regularly shipped in containers to markets abroad.
During the first half of 2010, America's container ports handled over $256 billion worth of containerized cargo imports weighing more than 62 million metric tons. They also handled exports worth over $100 billion and weighing 48 million metric tons (table 8 and table 9).
In 2009, U.S. ports handled $474 billion worth of containerized imports, down 18 percent from 2008. By weight, imports dropped 18 percent, from 137 million metric tons to 112 million metric tons. The leading imported commodities by value in 2009 were print machinery, televisions and electronics, and motor vehicle parts and accessories. By weight, the leading imported commodities were furniture, bananas, and worked monumental or building stones (table 8).
U.S. container ports handled $177 billion worth of containerized exports in 2009, down 19 percent from $220 billion in 2008. By weight, exports dropped by 10 percent, from 98 million metric tons to 88 million metric tons (table 9). The leading exported commodities by value in 2009 were automobiles and other vehicles, ethylene polymers, and machinery. By weight, the leading exported commodities were paper waste and scrap, iron and steel waste and scrap, and chemical wood pulp. The value of containerized exports declined more than the weight in part because of changes in the value per ton of the commodities and the mix of commodities, as well as the drop in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to currencies of the Nation's leading trading partners in 2009.