Top Five Busiest Ports in the World


As a Logistics provider we deal with ports all around the world on a daily basis. The “busyness” of a certain port is measured by volume of TEUs. Now, what is a TEU? On the subject of ocean shipping, you hear the term TEU all the time. The Twenty-Foot Equivalent unit (TEU) is an inexact unit of cargo capacity often used to describe the capacity of container ships. One TEU represents the cargo capacity of a standard container, 20 feet long and 8 feet wide.

TEU capacities for common container sizes:

Length        Width             Height                   Volume                        TEU
20 ft (6.1 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) 1,360 cu ft (38.5 m3) 1
40 ft (12.2 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) 2,720 cu ft (77 m3) 2
45 ft (13.7 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) 3,060 cu ft (86.6 m3) 2 or 2.25
48 ft (14.6 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) 3,264 cu ft (92.4 m3) 2.4
53 ft (16.2 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) 3,604 cu ft (102.1 m3) 2.65
High cube
20 ft (6.1 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 9 ft 6 in (2.90 m) 1,520 cu ft (43 m3) 1
Half height
20 ft (6.1 m) 8 ft (2.44 m) 4 ft 3 in (1.30 m) 680 cu ft (19.3 m3) 1

Now that we cleared up, lets take a closer look at the top 5 busiest ports of the world that handle the highest number of TEUs:

The top container ports are in Southeast Asia, Northwest Europe, and the West Coast of the United States. These locations reflect the patterns of global trade between locations for production and consumption. Once we talk about international trade, China, the rising star of the production, is the first to come to our minds. Based on the handling capacity (TEU) of ports in 2012, China is still the front runner!

1.Shanghai (China): Port of Shanghai is situated at the middle of the 11,250 mile-long Chinese coastline. The port possesses many economical advantages such as natural conditions, great geographical location, perfect inland distribution infrastructure .The port of Shanghai became the biggest port in the world with a total of five working areas, In 2012,around 32 million TEUs were handled by the port of Shanghai, it is one of the most important gateways for foreign trade for China.  The port of Shanghai is a source of great economic activity for neighboring cities such as Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Henan. The annual import and export trade through Shanghai, in terms of value, accounts for a 25% of China’s total foreign trade. Liner services from the Port of Shanghai are available to many major ports all around the world. More than 2,000 container ships depart from the Port every month to North America, Europe, the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Black Sea, Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and other regions.

2. Ningbo-Zhoushan (China): Port of Ningbo is located on the rich coastal province of Zhejiang and it is one of the most important ports in mainland China. Ningbo Port is involved in economic trade with cargo shipments, raw materials and manufactured goods from as far as North and South America and Oceania. It has economic trade developed with over 550 ports from more than 100 countries and regions in the world. The Port of Ningbo has recently merged with the Port of Zhoushan to form a combined cargo-handling center. The new combined port making it the world’s second-largest port based on TEU.

3. Singapore (Singapore): The port of Singapore is the world’s busiest transshipment port and rated as the world’s third largest port. The port of Singapore transships a fifth of the world’s shipping containers, half of the world’s annual supply of crude oil. It plays a very important role as it caters to the re-export market on a mammoth scale. The Port of Singapore is important for importing natural resources, and then later re-exporting them after they have been refined, for example wafer fabrication or oil refining to generate revenue. Only then can the service industries such as hospitality services typical of a port of call, for example, restocking a ship’s food and water supplies, take their role.

4. Rotterdam (The Netherlands): The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and it also ranked fourth in the list of biggest marine ports in the world. The general transshipment handling and the petrochemical industry play a significant role in here. The harbor functions as a crucial transit point for transport of bulk and other goods between Europe and other parts of the globe. From Rotterdam goods are transported by ship, river barge, train or road. Large oil refineries are located west of the Rotterdam..

5. Tianjin (China): Situated at the River Haihe, the Tianjin port in China is ranked fifth in the list of biggest ports in the world. At present it is connected to over 400 ports in nearly 200 countries across the world, a figure that is expected to rise by the next four years. The Tianjin port is the third largest port in China and the single-largest port in the Northern part of the country.

China has had great economic growth over the past years and if the Chinese economy continues to expand, the other Chinese ports will increase their volume as well. Already, more than half of the world’s top ten container ports are located in China, relegating the Europeans and Americans to the lower leagues. You are a bit surprised aren’t you? You would expect the port of Los Angeles to be in the top 5 maybe? Tough, it isn’t. The Port of Los Angeles is a busy port, but not as busy as to find itself a spot at the top. As per the 2012 container handling report, the port of Los Angeles is the 16th in this tough league.