The Ports of the United States handle more than 2 billion metric tons of domestic and import/export cargo annually. By 2020, the total volume of cargo shipped by water is expected to be double that of 2000 volumes. American ports are responsible for moving over 99 percent of the country's overseas cargo.
U.S. ports handle a wide variety of goods that are critical to the global economy, including petroleum, grain, steel, automobiles, and containerized goods. Reports from individual ports indicate that approximately 4.6 million automobiles (imports and exports) passed through American ports in 2006.
In addition to handling goods from all over the world, U.S. ports play a key role in creating jobs. For every $1 billion in exports about 15,000 port jobs are created. The figure swells to 30,000-45,000 when taking into account jobs to support new products and personnel.
Total port-related employment in the United States was estimated at 8.4 million people in 2006. Of this total, 1.4 million were employed in providing goods and services to ports (such as longshore, stevedore, and security personnel). The remaining 7 million were employed in import- and export-related activities (such as transportation, warehousing, and distribution). Port activities were also responsible for bringing in $102.8 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2006.
As more American businesses engage in international trade, ports will continue to grow. The majority of export companies in the United States are small businesses. American workers producing for export earned 15 percent higher wages and received 11 percent higher benefits than employees in non-exporting companies.
Unusually, United States containerized trade rates fell in 2007 despite a continued rise in international container rates. Inbound container volumes to the United States fell by 1.1 percent in 2007 to 18.96 million TEU. This compares to growth rates of 8.6 percent in 2006 and 10.5 percent in 2005. The decline was centered on transatlantic trade, with transpacific container volumes increasing by 0.4 percent over 2006.