[Updated for 2022] The busiest ports in the world are determined on the basis of the container traffic passing through them. Thus, it is not necessary that the biggest ports in the world are also the busiest ports in the world.
The marine domain has increased by leaps and bounds in the past few decades, necessitating port and harbour facilities to accommodate these ever-increasing requirements.
This is precisely why shipping authorities in every nation, are focussing on ensuring that their shipping ports are adequate to cater to the needs of the industry operators and drivers.
However, even while each nation focuses on improving its port infrastructure, there are a few global leaders with marine ports – bigger and busier than all others.
It is interesting to know that the busiest port facilities are situated in Asia, given the continent’s geographical position amidst crucial maritime trade routes connecting European and Middle-eastern ports.
Listed below are details about the 10 busiest ports in the world, each singular and unique in its own right.
Table of Contents
1. Shanghai Port
The Shanghai Port, owned by the Shanghai International Port Company Ltd, tops the list of the busiest ports in the world in 2022. Located in the People’s republic of China, in the city of Shanghai, this port is also regarded as the world’s most rapidly growing economy.
The Port of Shanghai took over, from its Singaporean counterpart, the title of the world’s biggest port in the year 2019 handling a whopping 37.1 Million TEUs of cargo volume. In 2020, the annual cargo traffic handled at the port was around 43.5 million TEUs, making it the globe’s busiest container facility.
The public port forms a very viable maritime porting channel for the River Yangtze and the East China Sea. The construction and development of the port have been acclaimed to be crucial factors in the development of the city of Shanghai.
Spanning an area of 4 km2, the port is a crucial centre of maritime international trade and commerce, laden with the latest infrastructural facilities and a giant network of freight and passenger links connecting it with important trade routes around the globe. It mainly handles bulk shipments of coal, metal ores, petroleum and its derivatives, steel, machinery and construction equipment.
Comprising 125 wharves and 19 terminal facilities, the port is capable of accommodating the world’s biggest ships and carriers. Apart from the 5 major port areas, the port also contains a cruise ship terminal with an annual handling capacity of more than 1 million people. More than one-fourth of China’s trade is handled at Shanghai port.
2. Singapore Port
Considered to be one of the world’s leading busiest ports, the Singapore port is a collective identification to all porting terminuses encompassed with the port. Operated by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, its multipurpose terminals are situated at Keppel, Pasir Panjang and Tuas.
Singapore has been instrumental in helping to reshape the Singaporean economic system. Regarded to be the biggest hub for transhipment activities, about 30.9 million Twenty-Feet Equivalent Units (TEUs) were handled by the port in 2019. In 2020, the port recorded an annual throughput of 37.5 million TEUs.
The Singapore port is the world’s busiest container transhipment facility, offering maritime trade connectivity with 600 seaports in over 100 countries. Also, Singapore port is one of the largest bunkering facilities in the world.
It comprises 84 berths spread across 6 major port terminals. Presently, the port receives 130,000 vessel calls annually.
A fully mechanised terminal is also being constructed at Tuas, expected to be completed by 2040, with a handling capacity of 65 million TEUs.Upon completion, it would be the largest fully-mechanised terminal facility in the world.
The port’s terminals are equipped to handle diverse bulk, breakbulk, liquid and containerised cargo. They efficiently handle oil, petroleum products, natural gas, cement, automobiles, machinery etc. An important terminal is located at Jurong which mainly deals with steel, cement, and copper slag. The Pasir Panjang Terminal can handle the biggest container ships with more than 12,000 TEUs.
The port offers an array of services to its national and international customers, including ship repairs and maintenance, cold storage facilities, container washing, and container tracking.
3. Port of Ningbo, China
The Ningbo Port is situated on the coast of the East China Sea in the province of Ningbo and Zhoushan, Zhejiang near Hangzhou bay. It is the third busiest port in the world that handle more than 28.72 million TEUs in 2020. The port has shipping links with 600 ports across 150 countries.
It is operated by the listed company, Ningbo Zhoushan Co., Ltd but it is 76.31% owned by government-owned Ningbo And Zhoushan Port Group Co., Ltd.
The major cargo handled at this port includes bulk, breakbulk, crude oil, product oil, liquid chemicals, grains, coal and machinery.
The port comprises 19 port regions and more than 300 functional berths capable of accommodating vessels weighing over 50,000 DWT. Its biggest terminals are the crude oil handling facility, an international container terminal and a specialised terminal for handling liquid chemicals. These aforementioned facilities handle the world’s biggest ships and carriers, weighing over 200,000 tonnes.
The Port of Ningbo has gained a reputation for providing quick and reliable services to its customers, owing to its high-tech logistics system and world-class container handling facilities. The world’s top shipping companies have their offices in the port premises.
4. Shenzhen Port
Shenzhen comprises numerous ports spanning the Shenzhen shoreline, Guangdong, China. It is divided into two main eastern and western port areas, comprising 5 major terminals. In 2020, the port handled more than 26.54 million TEUs, making it one of the busiest ports globally.
The government-owned port has 140 docks, handling diverse cargo and container vessels of varying sizes. 51 wharves are dedicated to ships weighing over 20,000 DWT, and 19 facilities are dedicated to handling containers. The port has 18 passenger berths as well.
The port of Shenzhen caters to industrial units and companies situated on the delta of the River Pearl. It was in the number 3 position with a total volume of trade of> 24 Million TEU in 2019.
The port is regarded to be the second most engaged shipping port in China, especially in the Southern part of the Chinese mainland.
The Chiwan and Shekou container terminals are situated in the western port region while Yantian port, which is the busiest container terminal of Shenzhen, lies in the eastern port area.
The port is linked with 300 major ports spread over 100 nations. Also, around 40 major shipping companies situated at the port have started over 120 container lines from the port.
5. Port of Guangzhou, China
Guangzhou Port is one of the most important Chinese ports with maritime trade connections to more than 300 ports in over 100 countries.
It is located in Guangzhou, Guangdong and is owned by the Guangzhou Port Group Ltd. The port handled more than 23.19 million TEUs in 2020, making it the world’s fifth-busiest container facility.
It has been operational since ancient times and is strategically located at the intersection of three important rivers. The port serves as a crucial transportation hub for the region’s industries located in places such as Guanxi, Sichuan, Hubei etc.
The port has 49 wharves and handles an array of agricultural and industrial goods such as oil, coal, fertilisers, chemicals, cereals, grains, metal ores, automobiles etc.
Nansha port, part of the main Guangzhou port area, handles more than 75% of the total cargo traffic at the port. Nansha port comprises more than 20 berths and over 60 specialised cranes. It can also accommodate the biggest cargo carriers.
6. Port of Busan
Owned by the government of South Korea, Busan port is situated at the tip of the Korean peninsula. The port is divided into two parts wherein international trade and commerce are carried out in the eastern port region and fisheries are the major activity at the western port area.
Busan port is South Korea’s largest port which handled more than 21.82 million TEU in 2020. It is a crucial maritime gateway for the nation linking it to the ports in the Pacific and major Asian ports. It handles containerised cargo including fertilisers, meat, metal, leather, oils, iron ore, wood, natural sand, sugars, petroleum and coal.
Its container handling touched a figure of over 19.9 million TEUs in the year 2019, making it a veritable challenger to its other Asian counterparts, in the years to come.
The Busan port comprises 4 port areas, a facility for handling passengers and 6 container handling facilities.
More than 30% of the country’s maritime cargo passes through the Busan port. It also handles around 90% of the nation’s containerised goods and more than 50% of its fisheries sector production. More than 120 cargo ships visit the port every 24 hours.
7. Port of Qingdao, China
Qingdao Port is located close to the Yellow sea, Qingdao, in Shandong Province, China. It became operational in the late 18th century and is an important port in Asia and a hub of international trade in the West Pacific region. In 2020, Qingdao port handled more than 22 million TEUs.
The port comprises four major ports namely the Qianwan, Dagang, Huangdao, and Dongjiakou port areas.
The Dagang port comprises 18 operational berths dedicated to cargoes like grains, steel products, aluminium oxide, and other conventional cargo.
The Qianwan port has 40 berths for handling containers, metals, coal, wood pulp etc. Huangdao port is an oil terminal capable of accommodating huge oil tankers at its 11 oil berths. It also handles crude oil, petroleum and its products. The Dongjiakou port includes 17 berths for dealing with solid and bulk cargoes.
The port offers world-class stevedoring facilities and can accommodate the biggest cargo carriers, iron ore vessels and oil tankers. The port is equipped with the latest port operating system and partially automated container terminals.
8. Port of Hong Kong
The Hong Kong port is situated near the Kowloon Peninsula and is a major maritime trading hub in Southeast Asia. It is one of the busiest container-handling facilities globally that handled more than 20.07 million TEUs in 2020. About 89% of Hong Kong’s total cargo throughput is handled at the Hong Kong Port, operated by the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board.
Its inclusion as one of the busiest marine ports dates back to as early as 1987 when it was rated as the top-most busiest port. In the year 2019, it did a trade of >19.7 million TEUs.
The port includes 24 berths with a total length of 7694 m, spanning 279 hectares. The port’s annual handling capacity is around 450,000 vessels. The port also has 9 container handling facilities with an annual handling capacity of more than 19 million TEUs. The port also includes several container yards and freight stations.
It provides excellent port facilities including shipyards for the repair and maintenance of all kinds and sizes of vessels. Three floating dry docks are situated on Ting Yi island. Smaller shipbuilding facilities at the port are engaged in the construction of specialised crafts such as patrol vessels and leisure boats for the international markets.
9. Port of Tianjin, China
Operated by Tianjin Port Group Ltd, the Tianjin port is the major port facility and a crucial logistics and shipping centre of North China. Situated on the western coast of Bohai Bay, it also serves as Beijing’s maritime gateway. It is the biggest artificial port facility in China and the ninth busiest port in the world. It is owned by Tianjin State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
It handled more than 18.35 million TEUs in 2020 and has trade connections with over 600 ports across 190 nations with more than 120 container lines.
Tianjin port covers more than 120 km2, with a quay length of 34 km and comprises more than 170 cargo ship berths. It has two passenger terminals and 9 port areas out of which 3, namely Beijiang, Nanjiang and Dongjiang handle the majority of trade operations. It also has six major and two temporary anchorage areas.
It is also connected to 13 Chinese provinces and has direct linkages with the Northeast and Mid-Asian regions. Lying in the special economic zone, the port handles all kinds of containerised and non-containerised cargo such as metals, ores, oil, petroleum, vehicles, steel goods, grains, cereals, coal etc.
10. Port Klang, Malaysia
The biggest seaport in Malaysia and the tenth busiest in the world, Klang Port lies on the western coast of the Selangor region on the river Kelang and is managed by the Port Klang Authority. It is part of the metropolitan region of Kelang city and also comes under the purview of the Klang Municipal Council.
The port handled more than 13.24 million TEUs in 2020. It has been operational since 1901 and presently, it is close to the herbicide and rubber footwear industries.
The port comprises 53 operational berths, including 24 container handling facilities, 11 berths for heavy cargo, 9 berths for handling liquid bulk and 7 berths for dry cargo. It also contains 220 thousand sq m of storage space and four container terminals with an annual handling capacity of around 8.5 million TEUs.It has two passenger terminals, one serving cruise ships and the other handles ferries.
These ports have been constant the world’s busiest shipping ports.
In context, the nature of Asian prominence in this list is testimony to the fact that Asian nations are developing and displaying their superiority in a domain, once controlled by Western conglomerates and operators.
You might also like to read:
- 10 Major Ports In China
- 10 Major Ports In India
- 7 Major Ports of South Africa
- 10 Major Ports in Europe
- 7 Major Ports of the United States
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Raunek Kantharia is a marine engineer turned maritime writer and entrepreneur. After a brief stint at the sea, he founded Marine Insight in 2010. Apart from managing Marine Insight, he also writes for a number of maritime magazines and websites.