10 Biggest River Ports In The World

River ports are facilities situated along rivers, mainly deeper and longer water bodies, that function as entry points or points of departure for maritime transportation. They are trade hubs where vessels, barges, and ferries can dock to load or unload cargo and people.

River ports are vital for internal trade and are equipped with all the required infrastructure, such as docks, wharves, warehouses, piers and handling equipment.

In this article, we will examine the 10 biggest river ports in the world, listed according to the volume of cargo they can handle.

1. Port of Shanghai, China

Shanghai functions as the country’s main financial, industrial and commercial centre.

Famous as the busiest port in the world, Shanghai is a deepsea port and a river port. The port began operations in 1842 and, over the years, has become an important regional facility covering approximately 4 square kilometres at the mouth of the Yangtze River.

Port of Shanghai
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Located in the middle of the 18,000-kilometre-long Chinese coastline, it mainly deals with coal, metal ores, petroleum products, steel, machinery, equipment, etc.

It handles more than one-fourth of all Chinese cargo and 99% of all Shanghai’s foreign trade.

The port has five working zones: the Yangtze River Sanctuary, the Huangpu River mouth at Wusongkou, Waigqoqiao, and the Pudong coast. In these regions, several port terminals with specialised facilities lie.

Approximately 582,000,000 tonnes of cargo, including 29,500,000 TEUs and 13,243,000 passengers, are handled annually here.

2. Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam Port is the largest port in Europe and also one of the world’s busiest facilities. It lies on the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta, where the Rhine and Meuse rivers meet before draining into the North Sea.

The port is a key shipping hub for containerised cargo and bulk goods such as coal, oil, iron ores, machinery, petroleum and chemical products, agricultural goods, etc.

Port of Rotterdam
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It has multiple terminals and berths like the ECT Delta Terminal, one of the biggest container terminals in Europe, the EMO terminal and the Botlek terminal.

In 2022, the port handled 467.4 million tonnes of cargo, and in 2021, it handled 468.7 million tonnes.

The Rotterdam Port has more than 500 deepsea feeders, RORO liners and short sea connections to over 1000 ports across the globe, making it a key European port.

3. Port of Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp Port is located 80 kilometres from the North Sea on the Scheldt River. It has a long history of trading, with its potential as a seaport being recognised by Napolean Bonaparte, who ordered the construction of its first dock in 1811.

Port of Antwerp
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Today it is a multi-product industrial port facility covering 13,000 ha with more than 530 ha of sheltered storage. It can accommodate Capesize ships.

The port mainly deals with ores, coal, petroleum and steel products, cereals, crude oils, paper, cellulose, sugar, fruits, etc.

The port has witnessed rapid expansion with the construction of non-tidal terminals to the north and west of the Schedt River.

Approximately 187,151,000 tonnes of cargo and 8,664,000 TEU pass through this port every year.

4. Port of Hamburg, Germany

The Port of Hamburg lies on the Elbe River, 65 nautical miles from the North Sea. It is the biggest port in Germany, with more than 320 berths. The port handles various cargoes but is known for its container and petroleum shipments. It is called the country’s gateway to the world.

The harbour is one of the main attractions of the city. It is an industrial and logistics centre and also home to museum ships, restaurants, bars, theatres for musicals and also a floating church.

Port of Hamburg
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Hamburg port spans 73.99 km2, and the branching of river Elbe has created an ideal complex equipped with warehousing and transhipment facilities.

The port has numerous terminals handling RORO, metals, forest products, citrus fruits, machines, etc. It also has a cruise terminal.

Approximately 121,200,000 tonnes of cargo, 8,000,000 TEU and 112,200 passengers are handled annually.

5. Port of Osaka, Japan

Osaka Port is located within Osaka Bay, between the Nakajima River and Yamato River estuary, on the southwestern coast of Honshu, Japan.

Port of Osaka
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It is a major centre for domestic and international maritime trade. The port is well-protected by 4703-metre breakwaters and is situated 20 kilometres southeast of the city of Kobe.

The Yamato River and the Sakai City form the port’s southern border, while the Kanzaki River forms its northern boundary.

Osaka Port has 3 main areas of operation, which include the Inner Harbour, the South Harbour and the North Harbour. The port has more than 70 berths, including 13 berths dedicated to container handling.

Diverse cargo, such as timber, coal, LPG, crude oil, bananas, chemicals, general cargo, etc., is handled here.

In 2007, Osaka Port, Sakai-Senboku Amagasaki/Nishinomiya/Asia and Kobe Ports were unified into what is now called the Hanshin Port.

Approximately 80,994,000 tonnes of cargo, 1,844,000 TEU and 1,683,000 passengers are handled annually here.

6. Port of New Orleans, U.S.

New Orleans Port is situated on the Mississippi River, around 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. It has cargo-handling facilities on both sides of the river.

The New Orleans Port, harbour, and terminal district includes the following port areas and terminals: Avondale, Gretna, Marrero, New Orleans, Westwego, and Alliance.

Port of New Orleans
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The main cargoes handled here include steel, poultry, forest products, rubber, coffee, copper, aluminium, grains, RORO, wood, paper, plastic resins, packaged food, containers, etc.

It is also the only deepwater container facility in Louisiana with an annual capacity of over 850,000 TEUs.

Approximately 69,749,000 tonnes of general and bulk cargo, 477,500 TEU, 2,000 vessels, and 750,000 passengers from cruise ships are handled annually.

7. Port of London, United Kingdom

London is the principal port facility of the UK, situated on the Thames River in southeastern England. It has wet docks and riverside terminals that together handle more cargo than any other port in the country, including containers, RORO, project cargo, liquid and dry bulk, general cargo, etc.

The port is extensive and stretches 150 km from the North Sea to the Teddington Lock. Many large docks and basins close to London City are used by recreational crafts.

Port of London
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The Thames comprises the port areas of Barking, Coryton, Canvey Island, Erith, Dagenham, etc. Tilbury Port has one enclosed dock system and many tidal berths.

The Thames is the busiest inland waterway in the UK, and the London Port handles approximately 10,850 ships, 48,10,000 tonnes of cargo and 850,000 TEUs annually.

8. Port of Kolkata, India

Kolkata Port is on the Hugli River, a tributary of the Ganges River, approximately 80 nautical miles from the Bay of Bengal.

The port extends about 23 nautical miles along the river, going from Konnager, 9 nautical miles upstream to the docks and then the petroleum wharves.

It has berths for handling most cargo types and maintenance and repair facilities, both owned by private players and the Port Trust.

Port of Kolkata
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Kolkata Port included the Kolkata Dock System and the Haldia Dock Complex. The former comprises of Kidderpur Docks, Netaji Subhas Dock and the Petroleum wharves located at Budge Budge.

The Virtual Berth, Sager Island, is a transhipment berth used by Panamax ships discharging cargo into barges.

The main imports handled at the port include iron, steel, metals, grains, machines, fertilisers, sulphur and rock phosphates, vegetable oil, timber, and cement.

Major exports include coal, jute, gunnies, tea, grains, linseed, castor oil, mica, cotton yarn, sugar, and scrap metal.

Approximately 3,500 vessels, 47,600,000 tonnes of cargo, 377,100 TEU and 63,500 passengers are handled annually.

9. Port of Nantes-St Nazaire, France

Port of Nantes-St Nazaire is situated at the mouth of River Loire on the western coast of France. Its terminals extend along the 60-kilometre up to Nantes.

The port handles cattle feed, fruits, grains, cereals, meats, vegetable oil and refrigerated cargo.

Port of Nantes-St Nazaire
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Huge ships use the south lock, service vessels, fishing boats and pleasure boats use the east dock, while the biggest ships use the 350 m long Louis Joubert Lock.

The port’s Atlantic Fruit Terminal lies at Darses Quay, while the Refrigerated Caro Terminal lies on Commerce Quay. The latter has 48,000 m2 of storage space for negative-temperature cargo.

The Chevire Industrial Zone in Nantes is the country’s main port for tropical-sawn timber imports. Its forest products and general cargo terminals receive resinous and broad-leaved timber from South America, Asia, Africa, and Northern Europe.

The port also has a grain terminal, a RORO terminal and also a Sand Terminal.

The Port, which includes St Nazaire, Montoir, Donges and Nantes, handles around 3000 vessels, 31,100,000 tonnes of cargo and 175,000 TEUs annually.

10. Port of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires Port lies on the southern shores of the River Plate and can be accessed via the Punta Indio Channel.

The port has 2 sections or areas: the New Port or Puerto Nuevo, which is accessible through the North Channel, and the South Port or Puerto Sur, which is the old port, entered via the South Channel.

The third is the Darsena Norte, or the North Basin, which serves as a docking area for the navy vessels and ferries.

Port of Buenos Aires
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A passenger terminal has been recently built to accommodate the growing cruise liners that call to the New Port.

A nature reserve borders the coastline. An LPG Jetty is close to the entrance of the South Port. A floating dry dock, a shipyard, a power station, and an oil tanker berth are also present.

The South Dock houses the container terminal and berths for tankers.

Approximately 2,200 vessels, 11,800,000 tonnes of cargo, 1,150,000 TEU, and 1,000,000 passengers are handled annually at Buenos Aires Port.

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About Author

Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.

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