Unless you live in or near a coastal city it’s easy to forget the sheer amount of cargo and goods that are shipped in and out of the United States via sea vessels. On a day-to-day basis, tens of thousands of tons of goods move through customs at ports up and down both the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines as well as the southern ports ringing the Gulf of Mexico. But if you’re looking to ship heavy machinery or vehicles, there are a few select ports that move far more roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo than others.
If you happen to be on or near the East Coast you have a few RORO hubs at your disposal. Further north, Baltimore ships the lion’s share of vehicles and machinery with New York City coming in a distant second. Further south, the Florida ports of Jacksonville and Miami carry most of the RORO shipping loads – Jacksonville seeming to be the Baltimore of the South when it comes to RORO shipments. Smack in the middle of the northern and southern ports sits Charleston, South Carolina which, while significantly smaller in volume, does seem to offer a fair number of RORO shipping opportunities should larger ports not be an option for one reason or another.
If you happen to be nearer to the Gulf region of the United States, Houston and Galveston, Texas handle the bulk of RORO shipments.
Shifting to the Pacific side of America, we’re once again presented with a few options for shipping vehicles or machinery out of major ports. In the north, Tacoma, Washington is a large port that handles a great deal of shipping to Alaska as well as destinations to the west like Japan and China. Southern California also boasts to large RORO shipping centers in Port Hueneme and Los Angeles.
While the vehicle or machinery’s final destination will play a large role in which port will likely be responsible for shipment, work with your logistics or transportation coordinating team to ensure that you have collected all the proper documentation and materials required. Most U.S. ports will have similar documentation requests, but the destination port requirements can vary from country to country. Also bear in mind that seasonality does play a roll in RORO shipping availability. New model year launches for vehicles can be particularly busy as large numbers of newly manufactured vehicles are being both imported and exported – particularly on the west coast.