Top 10 Busiest Cargo Ports in the World: A Closer Look

What is a cargo port?

A cargo port, also known as a seaport or marine port, is a location where ships can load and unload goods for transport. These ports serve as crucial gateways for international trade and commerce, facilitating the movement of goods between countries and continents.

Cargo ports can handle a wide range of cargo types, including bulk goods such as grains and minerals, containerized goods such as electronics and clothing, and even liquid and hazardous materials.

Cargo ports are often equipped with specialized facilities and equipment to handle these different types of cargo efficiently and safely.

Ranking the cargo port

Some of the main factors that are considered include the amount of cargo that passes through the port each year, the number of containers handled, and the number of ships that dock at the port.

Other important factors include the efficiency of the port, its accessibility and location, and the types of cargo that are handled.

1. Shanghai Port, China: The world’s busiest cargo port with an annual cargo volume of 744 million tonnes in 2020.

2. Singapore Port, Singapore: Second busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 619 million tonnes of cargo in 2020.

3. Shenzhen Port, China: Third busiest cargo port in the world with an annual cargo volume of 580 million tonnes in 2020.

4. Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, China: Fourth busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 574 million tonnes of cargo in 2020.

5. Hong Kong Port, China: Fifth busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 364 million tonnes of cargo in 2020.

6. Busan Port, South Korea: Sixth busiest cargo port in the world with an annual cargo volume of 325 million tonnes in 2020.

7. Qingdao Port, China: Seventh busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 284 million tonnes of cargo in 2020.

8. Tanjung Pelepas Port, Malaysia: Eighth busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 25.2 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2020.

9. Jebel Ali Port, Dubai, UAE: Ninth busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 14.1 million TEUs in 2020.

10. Rotterdam Port, Netherlands: Tenth busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 13.2 million TEUs in 2020.

Port of Shanghai, China

This massive cargo port has held the title of the world’s busiest port since 2010, handling an incredible 744 million tonnes of cargo annually.

Additionally, the Port of Shanghai is strategically located near the Yangtze River Delta, one of China’s most developed regions, making it a critical hub for both domestic and international trade.

The port is made up of several terminals, each with its own specialized function, including container terminals, bulk cargo terminals, and specialized terminals for hazardous materials.

  • Size: This port covers an area of 3,619 hectares.
  • Capacity: This port has a handling capacity of 40 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year.
  • Infrastructure: This port is equipped with 112 berths and 260 quay cranes.
  • Employees: The port has over 60,000 employees.
  • Ships: The port serves over 2,000 shipping lines, with regular connections to more than 600 ports in over 100 countries.

Here is a good video of Yangsan port that is one of the major ports belongs to port of shanghai

Port of Singapore, Singapore

The Port of Singapore is considered a transshipment hub due to its strategic location at the crossroads of major shipping lanes.

The Port of Singapore has a modern and sophisticated infrastructure that includes deep water berths, advanced cargo handling systems, and state-of-the-art technology.

  • Size: This port is spread over 3,200 hectares and has a total quay length of over 200 kilometers.
  • Capacity: It can handle over 37 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo each year.
  • Infrastructure: automated container terminals and a highly efficient port management system.
  • Employees: over 36,000 people.
  • Ships: sever over 200 shipping lines that connect to over 600 ports in 123 countries.

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Shenzhen Port, China

Coming in at the third spot on the list of the busiest cargo ports in the world is the Shenzhen Port, located in the southeastern province of Guangdong in China.

Shenzhen Port is situated at the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone in China. This prime location connects China’s hinterland to the global markets, making it an ideal gateway for import and export activities.

  • Size: This port covers an area of approximately 260 square kilometers.
  • Capacity: around 25 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) of cargo each year.
  • Infrastructure: With 36 berths, fully automated container handling systems, advanced equipment.
  • Employees: workforce of over 50,000 employees.
  • Ships: connections to over 300 ports in more than 100 countries.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, China

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in China is the 4th busiest cargo port in the world, handling over 1 billion tons of cargo in 2020 alone.

This port is located in the Zhejiang province and serves as an important gateway to the Yangtze River Delta economic region.

  • Area: This port spans an area of over 3,000 hectares
  • Capacity: It has an annual container throughput of over 28 million TEUs and a bulk cargo throughput of over 600 million tons.
  • Efficiency: It has a total of 245 berths, which can accommodate different types of cargo vessels, including large container ships and bulk carriers.
  • Employees: This port has over 43,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the region.
  • Ships: This port handles a wide range of vessels, from small container ships to large bulk carriers, oil tankers, and LNG carriers.

Hong Kong Port, China

The Hong Kong Port is the 5th busiest cargo port in the world, located in China. It is known as a natural deep-water port that can accommodate large ships easily.

  • Area: span 8.8 square kilometers.
  • Capacity: around 19.6 million TEUs per year.
  • Efficiency: smart systems, autonomous trucks, and blockchain to streamline the handling and movement of goods.
  • Employees: around 31,000 workers.

Busan Port, South Korea

Busan Port is the largest port in South Korea and the 6th busiest cargo port in the world.

Busan Port’s strategic location along the East Asian coastline makes it an important hub for shipping activities between China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

  • Area: This port has a total area of 31.9 million square meters.
  • Capacity: this port handles over 20 million TEUs annually.
  • Efficiency: This port has 84 berths, and can accommodate vessels up to 18,000 TEUs.
  • Employees: Busan port employs over 10,000 people.

Qingdao Port, China

Located on the east coast of China, Qingdao Port is the 7th busiest cargo port in the world, handling around 550 million tons of cargo every year.

With an area of 291 square kilometers, this port is among the largest in China and is an important hub for international trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • Area: 291 square kilometers
  • Capacity: Annual handling capacity is around 18.3 million TEUs
  • Efficiency: This port’s facilities include 74 berths, with a total quay length of 18.7 kilometers.
  • Employees: Over 18,000 people

Tanjung Pelepas Port, Malaysia

This port is operated by Malaysia’s largest port operator, the Port of Tanjung Pelepas Sdn Bhd (PTP), which is a joint venture between Malaysia’s state-owned MMC Corporation Berhad and APM Terminals.

The port is strategically located at the crossroads of major shipping lanes connecting Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

  • Area: Tanjung Pelepas Port spans over 1,000 hectares
  • Capacity: This port can handle up to 12.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers annually.
  • Efficiency: The port has 14 linear berths, 58 quay cranes to efficiently load and unload cargo. An average turnaround time is 24 hours for a ship.
  • Accessibility: This port is connected to major highways and railways
  • Employees: PTP employs over 6,000 people
  • Sustainability: This port is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by using solar power, LED lighting, and energy-efficient equipment.

Jebel Ali Port, Dubai, UAE

Jebel Ali Port in Dubai, UAE is the 9th busiest cargo port in the world. It is strategically located between Europe and Asia, making it an important hub for trade between these two regions.

The port was established in 1979 and has since then undergone multiple expansions to accommodate the growing demand for its services.

  • Area: This port covers an area of 67 hectares, which is roughly the size of 100 football fields
  • Capacity: This port can handle up to 22.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo per year
  • Infrastructure: This port has a modern container terminal, a multipurpose terminal, and a ship repair yard.
  • Employees: This port employs over 10,000 people, including skilled workers and professionals.
  • Ships: This port can accommodate the world’s largest container ships, with a maximum draft of 16 meters.

Rotterdam Port, Netherlands

Located in the heart of Europe, Rotterdam Port is a major international gateway for goods traveling to and from Europe.

As the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam handled 14.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo in 2020, making it the tenth busiest cargo port in the world.

The port’s strategic location on the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta provides excellent access to the hinterland, making it a key hub for European transportation. It also boasts state-of-the-art facilities, including deep-sea terminals and intermodal connections.

  • Size: It covers an area of over 12,000 hectares and has 42 kilometers of quay walls.
  • Capacity: a handling capacity of over 12 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year.
  • Infrastructure: deep-sea container terminals, rail connections, and inland waterways.
  • Employees: create over 385,000 jobs and generating around 6% of the Dutch’s GDP.
  • Ships: connected to more than 1,000 ports worldwide, with over 130 shipping lines calling at the port.

How long does cargo stay in the port?

The length of time cargo stays in a port depends on the type of cargo and the level of congestion at the port. Perishable goods require quick transport, and high traffic can cause delays in unloading cargo.

In general, most cargo will stay in a port for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This allows for the cargo to be unloaded, processed, and potentially transferred to another mode of transportation for final delivery.

Who is the largest cargo carrier?

The honor currently goes to the United Parcel Service (UPS), which boasts a fleet of over 500 aircraft and operates in over 220 countries and territories.

In terms of ocean shipping, the largest cargo carrier is Maersk, a Danish company that transports around one-fifth of all containers shipped globally.