Shipping ports are multipurpose regions maintained for secure, safer and reliable voyages of ships. A place or location at the sea coast mainly made available for the docking purpose of a ship or for transferring people or cargo is termed a port.
There are a large number of ports constructed and operational throughout the world to serve excellent waterway transportation. Ports can be ranked worldwide on many criteria, such as Cargo volume, Container size, etc.
The handling capacity of ports is measured in terms of TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). Based on this unit of calculation, we have rated ten ship ports as the biggest ports in the world.
Incidentally, most of these rated marine ports come under the Asian continent, and on further narrowing of this statistic, mostly emerge from a single country – China.
It is to be noted that the list of the largest ports in the world is subject to constant alteration. This is mainly because of the development taking place in each and every country across the globe with respect to marine cargo transportation and commercial networking.
Below are the top ten biggest ports as per the cargo volume worldwide.
Table of Contents
1. Port of Shanghai, Shanghai, China
Having a total of five working areas, the Port of Shanghai became the biggest port in the world, surpassing the Port of Singapore. It is located in Shanghai, China. That year alone, around 29 million TEUs were handled by the port of Shanghai, which has both – a sea and a river port. The port of Shanghai is a source of great economic activity in the Yangtze River area, which has helped further the economic status of regions like Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Henan.
It has a capacity to handle cargo of about 744 million tonnes, which allows efficient management of 32.5 million containers of dimension equal to standard TEUs of containers simultaneously.
It is stretched at an area of 3,619 km² at the delta or convergence of the Yangtze River, and the port is owned by the International Port Group in Shanghai (SIPG).
The port involves the three most important container port areas located at Wusongkou, Waigaoqiao and Yangshan, with a total of 125 berths. The stretch of the quay totals approximately twenty kilometres.
One-fourth of International trade from China is carried out from this port, and on average, about 2,000 container ships are served by this port monthly.
2. Port of Singapore, Singapore
Once rated as the world’s largest port, the port of Singapore has slipped a couple of places and is now ranked second in the same category. From the Singaporean economic perspective, the port of Singapore plays a very important role as it caters to the re-export market on a mammoth scale.
The Singapore port is connected to over 600 ports spread around more than 100 countries. In terms of its handling, the ship port handles a fifth of the global cargo containers and is responsible for the transit of nearly 50% of the global crude oil supply.
The cargo handling capacity of the Port of Singapore is about 537.6 million tonnes. Annually, a total of about 140000 vessels are received by this port.
PSA Singapore, in joint collaboration with Jurong Port manages the port and various port terminals.
The locations of major port terminals of the Port of Singapore are Pasir Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, and Sembawang. Keppel, Jurong and Brani. It houses about two hundred four quay cranes and plenty of gantry cranes.
Currently, this terminal is under development and is projected to be stretched out to 15 more berths and become operational in the near future.
3. Port of Tianjin, Tianjin China
The Tianjin port in China is ranked third in the list of biggest ports in the world. The Tianjin port is the third-largest port in China and the single-largest port in the Northern part of the country.
With the latest developments in shipping industries, the amount of cargo increased to an average of 5.3%, and containers increased by 6.2%.
The cargo handling capacity of this port is such that it can handle cargo of about 476 million tonnes at a time, with a low value of a number of standard TEUs dimension containers of 12.3 million containers can be transported.
This port, operated by Tianjin Port Group of companies, is constructed at the outlet of a North China river named Haihe River with a combined area of land and water of 131 km² and 336 km² respectively, to serve as an interconnector between 500 ports of about 189 countries. This Chinese port features 159 interconnected berths in aggregate to form an excellent port network.
4. Port of Guangzhou Guangzhou, China
The largest port in Southern China, the Guangzhou port enjoys connectivity with over 300 ports in almost 100 countries. The port forms the mainstay for the industrial belt in the Guangxi, Yunnan, Hunan and Jiangxi regions. The port of Huangpu also forms a part of the Guangzhou port.
There is little difference between the cargo handling capacity of the Port of Tianjin and the Port of Guangzhou. The port of Guangzhou can handle cargo of even more than 460 million tonnes, this cargo handling capacity ranks it at number four in the top-ranking order.
In its beginning stage in 1999, this port was constructed between the Perl River delta.
In its initial stage, it was made to handle only a hundred million tons of cargo. Still, this capacity experienced growth and expansion, so the total cargo handling capacity reached the present capacity of about 460 million tonnes, more than four times the 100 million tonnes in 1999. This expansion in port capacity was an invitation to more trade from these ports and increased cargo traffic.
The four key areas of this port, which are the busiest port locations, are Downtown Port, Xinsha Port, Huangpu Port and Nansha Port Area. If the top order of ports is set based on their loading and discharging, especially for coal, then this port in China tops the queue.
5. Port of Ningbo, Ningbo-Zhoushan, China
Formed as a collaborative venture between the Ningbo port and the Zhoushan port in 2006, the Ningbo-Zhoushan port is the second-largest marine port in the world.
Catering to three rivers – the Yangtze, the Yong and the Qaintang- the port expected a huge boost because of constructing a new terminal.
The Port of Ningbo, Zhejiang, with a handling capacity of more than 453 million tonnes of cargo, is next in the list of biggest global ports, with a value of 15.6 million TEUs.
The main port areas of this port are Beilun, Ningbo, Zhenhai, Chaunshan, and Daxie, and Ningbo Port Group operates this port. It comprises 309 berths interconnecting a huge number of ports (about 600 ports in all) among 100 countries.
The recent merging of this port and the Port of Zhoushan resulted in the enhancement of the combined TEU capacity of the two ports, which reached a value of 16.83 million TEUs.
6. Port of Rotterdam Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The Port of Rotterdam bears two titles: the first of the largest ports in Europe and the second of the sixth biggest port globally.
It safely handles 441.5 million tonnes of cargo. The approximate stretch of this port is 12426 hectares to 42 kilometres in length. This port has an industrial complex within its environs.
PoRA, the outstanding port authority of Rotterdam, owns, manages and operates this port.
The Port of Rotterdam is the deepest in north-western Europe and allows for the deep docking of ships. The regional government is carrying out a development programme for this port that will approximately double its cargo handling capacity.
The European port served as the largest port in the world for 42 years, between 1962 and 2004, before Singapore and Shanghai surpassed it. The Rotterdam port is the largest in the whole of Europe.
7. Port of Suzhou
After reaching a cargo handling capacity of 428 million tonnes, the Port of Suzhou became the seventh biggest port in the world. This port also has a high ranking when ports are ranked as per their business, and this port is placed in the categories of busiest inland river ports around the globe.
Suzhou Municipal Government owns and manages the port functionalities. It is constructed on the Yangtze River at its lower reach with major port areas, namely Changshu, Zhangjiagang, and Taicang.
These port areas comprise 224 berths in all and transact with more than hundreds of national and international shipping routes. This port is employed mainly for transporting various construction materials and coal. The Suzhou Harbour Administration Department manages all the activities at the port.
8. Port of Qingdao Qingdao, China
The World’s largest iron ore port, or “the Port of Qingdao”, was established at the entrance head of the Bay of Jiaozhou of Shandong Peninsula and ordered at the eighth position in the world’s biggest ports ranking as per cargo capacity.
This port is managed by a state port group named Qingdao City Port Group and is self-sufficient in handling cargo of about 400 million tonnes or more. It holds the rank of the eighth-biggest port and the largest Chinese port for crude oil transportation.
This port was developed by merging three ports: the oil port of Huangdao, Qingdao Old Port and the new port at Qianwan. This port interconnects about 130 countries through a network of about 450 ports. This is the only port that is furnished well with all high-tech facilities as well as a well-established industrial zone in its locality.
9. Port of Dalian, China
In the order of the top ten biggest ports of the world, the ninth position is secured by the port in Liaoning province of China, called the Port of Dalian, which handles more than 303 million tonnes of cargo.
Dalian Port Company owns this port and is responsible for all the concerned port activities. There are about eighty berths, and seven significant areas of Dalian Port are Daliangang, Ganjinzi, Dalianwan, Nianyuwan, Xianglujiao, Dayaowan, Heizuizi and Si’ergou which connects more than ninety-nine shipping lines around the globe.
It is a regional port responsible for almost all the regional transportation in the vicinity.
10. Port of Busan Busan (South Korea)
The Port of Busan, also known as Pusan, doubles South Korea’s largest port and second-largest city. The 10th biggest port in the world, the port of Busan, is situated at the Naktong River and forms a major commercial getaway between the Pacific Ocean and the countries belonging to Eurasia.
Naktong River Delta is where the Port of Busan is located. The handling capacity of this port is about 298 million tonnes of cargo.
Busan port authority manages, operates and is responsible for the proper functioning of this port. Port of Gamcheon and Dadaepo, along with South and North ports, are the key ports that comprise the Busan Port.
It is a major port in South Korea as a major portion of the country’s fishery production; the export of bulk freights and container freights is catered by this port alone. The catchment area over which this port is stretched is figured out to be 840,000 m² and can handle 169 vessels simultaneously.
On a concluding note, it is not wrong to say that China tops in Port development and management as there are seven Chinese ports in the list of top ten biggest ports worldwide as per their respective cargo holding capacities.
Chinese Port of Shanghai topped the list due to its highest cargo-carrying capacity among all the ports developed. This ranking of the ports is based on container handling capacities in a million tonnes.
These ports have cargo handling capacities varying from cargoes of 298 million tonnes to 744 million tons. This is one basis for ranking the world’s top ten ports, whereas they can also be ranked based on other standards, such as standard cargo dimensions in TEUs.
The ranking of ports as per their respective TEU capacity is as follows:
- Shanghai port at Yangtze River (China)
- Singapore Port at Malacca Strait (China)
- Shenzhen Port at Perl River Delta (China)
- Hong Kong SAR at Perl River Delta (China)
- Ningbo – Zhoushan Port in Zhejiang (China)
- Port of Busan in Korean Strait (South Korea)
- Port of Qingdao in the Yellow Sea (China)
- Guangzhou port at Perl River Delta (China)
- Jebel Ali Port in Arab Penisula (United Arab Emirates)
- Tianjin Port in Yellow Sea (China)
Thus, also in the ranking of ports according to the number of units of standard dimension containers transported through ports, China dominates the list.
Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.
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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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