The maritime Port of New Orleans was the nation's eighth busiest waterborne freight gateway for international trade by value of shipments in 2008. It ranked 16th among all land, water, and air gateways, handling nearly $50 billion dollars of international freight. The seaport's overall ranking jumped from 26th in 2003.1 In 2008, the merchandise trade handled at New Orleans represented about 3 percent of the value of U.S. international waterborne freight shipments, accounting for 5 percent of U.S. waterborne exports and 2 percent of imports (table 1).
By weight, the Port of New Orleans ranked second among all U.S. international water ports, following Houston, another Gulf Coast port. In 2008, the port handled 98 million tons of goods, accounting for about 6 percent of the total U.S. international waterborne tonnage. The port processed more than 230,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) of containerized maritime freight in 2008 (table 1).
The Port of New Orleans has a global reach, and no single continent dominates its export destinations and import origins. Venezuela was the top origin country for imports in 2007, followed by Mexico and China (table 2).2 Japan was the leading destination for exports, followed by Mexico and Egypt. The Port of Point Lisas, Trinidad, was the largest origin point for imports, and Tokyo, Japan, was the major destination for exports (table 3).3
In 2007, container ships made only 6 percent of the nearly 5,000 vessel calls at the Port of New Orleans. Dry-bulk ships made 49 percent of the vessel calls, and tankers made 34 percent (table 4).4
The Port of New Orleans is a leading gateway for general cargo, providing important access to markets in Midwestern states via a 14,500-mile inland waterway system.5 Commodities handled at the port were diverse. Chemicals, coal, timber and other forest products, and copper came through the port as exports or imports. The port also handled steel and natural rubber, as well as grain and coffee.6
1 U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, America's Freight Transportation Gateways: Connecting Our Nation to Places and Markets Abroad (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2004).
2 Data for 2008 are not available for weight and vessels calls. Data in tables 2, 3, and 4 are from 2007.
3 Note that the top port is not in the top country listed here because this port handles a larger share of its country's trade with this U.S. gateway. By comparison, trade with the top country is distributed among more ports, and thus each rank lower on the port list.
4 Dry-bulk ships carry homogeneous dry cargoes, such as grain, coal, steel, and iron ore.
5 Port of New Orleans website, www.portno.com/pno_pages/about_overview.htm as of Aug. 10, 2009.
6 Port of New Orleans website, www.portno.com/pno_pages/about_overview.htm as of Aug. 10, 2009.