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Information for the Public
Presented by the University of Delaware Sea Grant Program

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How many ships travel the
Delaware River and Bay,
and what cargo do they carry?

Picture of Cleanup Crew

The Delaware River and Bay is home to the fifth largest port complex in the United States in terms of total waterborne commerce. Every year, over 70 million tons of cargo move through the tri-state port complex, which includes the ports of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Camden, Gloucester City, and Salem, New Jersey; and Wilmington, Delaware. It is the second largest oil port in the United States, handling about 85% of the East Coast's oil imports.

How many vessels transit the Delaware Estuary annually?


Approximately 3,000 vessels.

What kind of cargo are these ships carrying?


Here's an overview of the 2003 Delaware River ship cargo:

Shipping Graph

Other is Comprised of:
General — 3%, Wood — 3%, Clothes — 2%, Food — 2%, Meat — 2%,
Cocoa — 1%, Project — 1%, Juice — 1%, Miscellaneous — 1%,
Passengers — 1%, Fertilizer — 1%


How did the shipping lanes’ temporary closing affect the industry?


The closing threatens the economic vitality of the Delaware Valley region. The port complex has created more than 30,000 jobs, provides more than $1 billion in wages and generates $3.5 billion in revenues a year. As the largest freshwater port complex in the world and the fifth largest port in the U.S., the complex handles over 70 million tons of cargo each year (including 5 million tons through the Port of Wilmington).

Cargo arriving in the Port of Wilmington alone is trucked throughout the country.

US Shipping Lanes

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