Export-to ship commodities from United States to another country for sale, exchange, etc.

The export business in the US totaled 1.84 trillion dollars in 2014, which accounts for 13% of the US economy. The US is one of the largest export countries in the world, with major ports on the Atlantic Seaboard the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast, enabling access to all major markets including Europe, South America and Asia.


With approximately 70,000 ports of call at the ten top ports in the US, traffic has in creased about 5% a year for the last several years. In the age of e-commerce and the new global economy the export trade business is a growing industry.

Ocean freight compared to airfreight

Airfreight makes up about 3.7% of containerized tonnage shipped worldwide. Most airfreight consists of perishable or time sensitive goods. The cost to ship by airfreight is about twice as much as ocean freight, but it could be more depending on the final destination.


When exporting you can ship either FCL, (full container load) or LCL, (less than a container load) depending on the size of your shipment. Most exporters ship FCL to control the timing of the shipment and guarantee that their cargo will not be contaminated or damaged by other cargo.

Documents needed for an export shipment

Business planning to export goods overseas must understand the rules of the country they plan to ship to, and the documents required.

  • Commercial invoice.
  • Bill of lading.
  • Written Authorization, to prepare and file EEI, (Electronic Export Information).


Goods must pass through customs at the port of origin and the port of destination.
Customs will require the documents listed above in order to clear the goods, and they may inspect the cargo in a random search not unlike the searches performed by TSA agents at airports. Documents must be submitted electronically by the freight forwarder.


The incoterms agreed on by the shipper and the consignee will determine the responsibilities of costs associated with the shipment.
The most common incoterms when exporting are,

  • Ex works
  • FOB
  • CFR
  • CIF

Top ten export commodities for the USA

1Machines, engines, pumps:$219, 566, 232, 000 (13.5% of total exports)
2Electronic equipment:$171, 966, 197, 000 (10.6%)
3Oil:$157, 213, 437,000 (9.7%)
4Vehicles:$135, 797, 903, 000 (8.4%)
5Aircraft, spacecraft$124, 831, 567,000 (7.7%)
6Medical, technical equipment:$84, 879, 104,000 (5.2%)
7Gems, precious metals, coins:$65, 522, 480, 000 (4.0%)
8Plastics:$63, 025, 216,000 (3.9%)
9Pharmaceuticals:$43, 967, 977, 000 (2.7%)
10Organic chemicals:$42, 255, 264, 000 (2.6%)

Top Ten Export ports in USA in short tons, (2,000 lbs)

1Port of Louisiana, LA84,215,716
2Port of Houston, TX78,623,053
3Port of Hampton Roads, VA60,610,399
4Port of Long Beach, Ca24,584,469
5Port of NY/NJ24,165189
6Port of Plaquemines Parish, LA22,974,084
7Port of Los Angeles, CA21,974,579
8Port of New Orleans, LA19,213,846
9Port of Mobile, AL16,511,605
10Port of Corpus Christi, TX14,822,051