Measuring Port Performance

The Port Performance Freight Statistics Program (PPFSP) provides port performance measures for port capacity and throughput at the Nation’s top ports. This program also shows changes in throughput from previous years to illustrate the extent of changes in cargo handled. In this report, the terms port throughput and port capacity are defined as follows, per the 2018 PPFSP Glossary [1]:
  • Port Throughput – The amount of cargo or number of vessels a port handles over a designated amount of time. Port throughput can be estimated with measures that include a number of variables including cargo tonnage, container TEU, and vessel calls.
  • Port Capacity – A measure of the maximum throughput that a port and its terminals can handle over a given period, which can be measured in tons, TEU, or other units.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) used the following criteria to select the throughput and capacity measures: Data availability—Chosen measures must be readily available for almost all ports to identify the top 25 ports for which that data applies (e.g., dry bulk and total tonnage, twenty-foot equivalent unit for container ports, and observed vessel calls and types for all ports).
  1. National consistency—Measures must be based on a nationally consistent definition and collection methodology. Ideally, a measure should be available from a single, authoritative source. If not available, BTS reconciled and validated multiple sources to ensure consistency.
  2. Timeliness—The most recent available data set information is sought, with a goal of data no more than three years old for key measures.
  3. Relevance and clarity—Measures should be closely connected to the throughput and capacity of ports, terminals, and port infrastructure and be understandable to readers unfamiliar with ports or shipping terminology.
  4. Accuracy and transparency—Measures should be accurate within defined data quality standards and should come from authoritative sources, as outlined in the detailed PPFSP Technical Documentation found on the BTS website, which is available at https://www.bts. gov/PPFS-Tech-Docs.
BTS updates the port performance measures using the most recent data available, highlighting key events that have impacted port performance. In addition to the summary statistics presented here, a complete set of interactive Port Profiles that provide capacity and throughput data from 2016 through 2021 (or the latest year available) is available online. The online Port Profiles include port characteristics, port dwell times for selecting vessel types, contextual information, and updates specific to each port.
BTS is continuously making enhancements in response to data user comments and has improved the usability of its Port Profiles. BTS welcomes data user feedback. Please feel free to send questions and comments on the Port Profiles.