The United States may be the trade capital of the world, but if you’re looking for North America’s fastest-growing container ports, you’ll have to look north and south of its borders.
Among the Top 25 North American ports, only two U.S. ports — Tacoma and Virginia — grew at a double-digit clip in total containerized trade last year, at 23.7 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively. Yet both lagged well behind the growth at North America’s two newest ports: Prince Rupert, British Columbia, with 32.7 percent growth, and Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, 29.3 percent.
On the import leg, Prince Rupert’s 5-year-old container port spiked 36.4 percent year-over-year — by far the most rapid ye—ar-over-year increase — followed by Lazaro Cardenas’s 30.1 percent jump. The two switched spots on the export rankings, with the Mexican port surging 28.1 percent and Prince Rupert up 24.1 percent.
U.S. ports handled 79 percent of the laden North American container trade, with Los Angeles-Long Beach, by far the largest port complex on the continent, accounting for 32.4 percent of North American imports, 19.9 percent of exports and 27.1 percent of total trade.
Overall North American trade totaled 38 million laden 20-foot-equivalent units last year, led by U.S. ports with 30.1 million TEUs. Canadian ports handled 4.4 million TEUs, representing 11.6 percent of the market, and Mexican ports, with 3.5 million TEUs, accounted for 9.3 percent.
Mexico’s container ports, while accounting for the smallest share of North American trade, saw combined export-import container volume spike 12.5 percent year-over-year. Growth south of the border outperformed the 3.2 percent growth at all North American ports, the 6.2 percent gain at Canadian ports and the 1.8 percent increase in the U.S.
Mexico’s ports also led North American export growth, with an 11.8 percent year-over-year increase, outperforming the 1.7 percent growth at all North American ports. Exports through U.S. ports were essentially flat, up 0.6 percent, and Canadian ports saw 1.5 percent export growth.
U.S. ports handled the lion’s share of North American exports in 2012. Of the total 16.1 million TEUs moving overseas, U.S. ports handled 12.5 million, or 77.9 percent. Exports through Canadian ports totaled nearly 2 million TEUs, for a 12.4 percent share, and Mexican ports moved 1.6 million TEUs in exports, for a 9.8 percent share.
Mexican container ports also led the growth in containerized imports, with a 13.2 percent year-over-year spike, outperforming overall North American import growth of 4.3 percent. Imports grew 10.3 percent through Canadian ports and 2.7 percent through U.S. ports.
Overall North American imports in 2012 totaled 21.9 million laden TEUs, led by U.S. ports at 17.5 million TEUs, or 79.9 percent share; Canadian ports at 2.4 million and an 11.1 percent share; and Mexican ports at nearly 2 million with a 9 percent share.
Imports drove North American trade in 2012, accounting for 57.6 percent of overall volume, 58.3 percent of U.S. port volume, 55.6 percent of Mexican port volume and 55 percent of Canadian volume.