Fast Facts / Ports


2.3 Billion Tons

U.S. waterways carry 2.3 billion tons of freight annually.

$2.3 Trillion

Our nation’s ports are the lifelines of our economy. Annually, waterborne international trade is valued at $2.3 trillion.

25,000 Miles

The U.S. transportation system includes 25,000 miles of navigable waterways.

An Ever-Growing Industry

In 2021, there were almost 44,800 U.S.-flagged maritime vessels operating on the waterways—an increase of 10.5 percent since 2010.

More Ports, More Value

The United States has 208 commercial ports handling at least 250,000 tons per year (up from 178 in 2010).

International Trade: Water Dependent

Water is the leading transportation mode for U.S. international freight trade by weight and value. U.S. ports handled 1.6 billion tons of imports and exports in 2021.

Vital, But Vulnerable

U.S. waterborne commerce is vulnerable to changes in weather and climate. In 2022, Hurricane Ian forced temporary closures of seven major U.S. ports. Droughts in the Mississippi River basin disrupted river shipping for parts of both 2022 and 2023, causing lengthy delays in shipping and greatly increasing shipping rates. Similarly, drought-induced low water in the Panama Canal caused significant disruptions to vessels serving U.S. East Coast ports.

Graphic stating that $1.9 trillion worth of imports and 13 million jobs are related to ports in the United States
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Handout: Top Ten Marine Economy

The above figures are for 2021 and 2022, unless otherwise noted.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2023 Transportation Statistics Annual Report