Vessel Calls and Capacity

Vessel Calls and Capacity

Between 2004 and 2009, the number of containership calls at U.S. ports has remained fairly steady, averaging about 18,000 per year. By contrast, container capacity of the calling vessels grew by 19 percent during this same period, from 59 million to 70 million TEUs.

In 2009, there were more than 18,200 containership calls at U.S. seaports, down 3 percent from 2008. These vessel calls accounted for 33 percent of the total calls made by all oceangoing vessel types at U.S. ports in 2009 (table 4).13 Calls at U.S. container ports in 2009 accounted for 6 percent of global containership calls at world ports, ranking third behind calls in China and Japan (USDOT MARAD 2010a).14

Container vessel calls as a share of total vessel calls at U.S. ports continue to rise (figure 14). In 2009, these vessels accounted for 33 percent of the total calls by all ships, up from 31 percent in 2004 (table 5). The average size of these vessels per call has also increased, by more than 19 percent, from 3,200 TEUs in 2004 to more than 3,800 TEUs in 2009 (table 5 and figure 15, left axis).

U.S. maritime ports are handling larger container vessels than in the past. The average size per call of container vessels that docked at U.S. ports in 2009 was 50,000 deadweight tons (table 4). This is a 15 percent jump from about 44,000 dwt in 2004 (table 5).

The larger vessels now operating in the worldwide fleets are increasingly calling at U.S. ports (figure 16). During the last 5 years, calls by containerships of 5,000 TEUs or greater increased by 156 percent, from 1,700 calls in 2004 to 4,400 calls in 2009 (table 5). In 2009, these very large containerships accounted for 24 percent of all containership calls at U.S. seaports, an increase from 10 percent in 2004 (USDOT MARAD 2010a). Increases in vessel calls and containership capacity, and the introduction of large post-Panamax vessels, affect port operation, port productivity, and infrastructure requirements. They also affect environmental considerations and community-impact issues.

Newer vessels are calling at U.S. ports, and the containerships that call have been in service for a shorter time than other vessel types that call at the Nation's ports (figure 17). While the average age of all vessels calling at U.S. seaports was 10.3 years in 2009, down from 11.8 years in 2004, the average age of containerships calling at U.S. seaports during the past 5 years has been 10 years (table 5). This trend reflects the replacements of older vessels with newer ones built in the late 1990s.

The majority of containership calls in the United States are concentrated at a handful of U.S. container ports. In 2009, the top five U.S. container ports handled over half (55 percent) of container vessel calls and 62 percent of container cargo capacity. The top 10 container ports accounted for 77 percent of containership calls. In 2004, the top five container ports handled 58 percent of container vessel calls and 62 percent of the cargo capacity.

13 Of the remainder, 35 percent were by tankers, 15 percent by dry-bulk vessels, 9 percent by roll-on/roll-off ships, and 8 percent by general cargo ships and other types.

14 In 2009, there were 293,755 global containership calls. China had 43,690 (15 percent), Japan had 22,094 (8 percent) and the United States had 18,206 (6 percent) (USDOT MARAD 2010a).