The Busiest Cargo Ports in North America

The port of Vancouver is the largest and busiest port in Canada and the third busiest cargo port in North America. Editorial credit: Volodymyr Kyrylyuk /

The busiest ports in North America handle more than 90 percent of the global trade in the continent. Of the top 15 cargo ports in North America, only two are found outside the United States. These 15 ports account for 97 percent of all the cargo handled. Even with a decline in traffic over the last two years, South Louisiana and Houston still hold the top spots.

Busiest North American Cargo Ports

South Louisiana

The port of south Louisiana is the largest tonnage port district of the United States and the continent of North America. It is the main gateway for export and import traffic handling a cargo volume of 235,058 thousand tons. It stretches 54 miles along the Mississippi River, making it the largest port district in the western hemisphere. It has numerous facilities in strategic locations at St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James Parish. The port has five first-rate port-owned facilities, including grain elevators and general cargo facilities.


The port of Houston is the busiest port in America in terms of foreign tonnage. It is the largest port in the Gulf coast, stretching 25 miles and only a few hours’ drive from the Gulf of Mexico. In 2016, the port of Houston handled 68 percent of all cargo in the Gulf coast. The expansion of the Panama Canal and the increasing number of container vessels has led to the acquiring of ship-to-shore cranes.

Metro Vancouver

The port is located on the southwest coast of British Columbia and stretches from Robert Banks up to the Burrard Inlet. The port of Vancouver is the largest and busiest port in Canada, handling an average volume of 138 million tons of cargo. The port is crucial to more than 170 economies in the region and beyond.

The Port of New York and New Jersey

The port of New York/New Jersey is the third largest port in the United States and the busiest cargo port on the east coast. The port provides access to the most diverse and concentrated consumer market, controlling 114 million tons of cargo volume. In 2015, the port facilitated the import and export of 4.5 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, the capacity unit for container ship). Commodities such as petroleum and scrap metal are traded here.

Lazaro Cardenas: Mexico's Busiest Port

The port of Lazaro Cardenas is the largest port in Mexico and the 15th busiest port in North America, controlling 33 million tons of cargo volume. Various cargo such as dry bulk, liquid cargo, and container are controlled by this seaport. It is one of the largest seaports in the Pacific Ocean basin and located in the deep-water.

The Busiest Cargo Ports in North America

RankPortCountryTotal Cargo Volume (Tons, 000s)
1South LouisianaUnited States235,058
2HoustonUnited States218,575
3Metro VancouverCanada138,228
4New York/New JerseyUnited States114,933
5New OrleansUnited States79,661
6Beaumont United States79,081
7Corpus ChristiUnited States77,724
8Long BeachUnited States70,991
9Baton RougeUnited States62,399
10Los AngelesUnited States54,602
11MobileUnited States53,157
12Virginia United States52,402
13Lake CharlesUnited States51,431
14PlaqueminesUnited States48,541
15Lazaro CardenasMexico33,212

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