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The World’s Busiest Shipping Container Ports

Since the first fully intermodal, steel shipping container was launched, over 60 years ago, by US trucking entrepreneur Malcolm P McLean, this revolutionary method of haulage has grown exponentially and is now responsible for safely transporting  the majority of international cargo. The world’s busiest shipping container ports are fully equipped with state-of-the-art lifting gear and operate 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

Busiest Shipping Container Ports Blue-Maersk-Line-shipping-container-vessel-at-dockside

International Shipping Container Trade Has Grown Fourfold Since 1970

Figures from 2011 show that America’s 360 commercial shipping ports processed $1.73 trillion in goods from all over the world. They are currently served by more than 6,000 specialist shipping container vessels. This number may not seem huge but the dimensions of the ships in question certainly are. Some examples stretch further than the length of three football pitches. To put that into context – a single container vessel can carry over 170 million bananas!

Conex Boxes Help Fuel Globalisation

Virtually every country with a seaboard boasts a busy shipping container port. They have massively increased the range of produce available, thanks largely to insulated and refrigerated Conex boxes (also known in the industry as ‘reefers’) which allow perishable goods, including meat, fish, dairy products and other farm produce to be safely transported at the correct temperatures. There are also other specialised shipping containers, including flat racks and high cubes, for transporting awkward loads, such as timber frames for the construction industry or bulky industrial machinery.

Busiest Shipping Container Ports Shanghai-shipping-container-portThe huge and burgeoning populations of many Asian countries dictate that nine of the Top 10 busiest shipping container ports are to be found there, including the busiest of all, the deep-water and river port of Shanghai, China. This colossal operation handles a record-breaking 37 million TEU’s (twenty-foot equivalent units) annually, which equates to well over 500 million tons of cargo. Shanghai stole the crown of busiest sea container port from Singapore, which now languishes six million TEU’s behind. With berths as deep as 15 metres, Shanghai’s deep-water berths can handle even the world’s largest container vessels, but it’s not the only large Chinese port, because Shenzhen, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Hong Kong, Qingdao, Guangzhou and Tianjin all figure in the world’s Top 10.

Busiest Shipping Container Ports | US

Despite its vast and diverse economy, the USA has zero ports in the international Top 10. In fact, you need to look way down the list, before finding the Port of Los Angeles sitting at No.19, with over eight million TEU’s handled each year. Also known as ‘America’s Port’ it is thought to employ nearly 900,000 workers, either directly or indirectly. Approximately $1.2 billion in cargo transits Los Angeles each day. This consists primarily of imported furniture, auto parts, electronics, footwear and clothing. Going in the opposite direction are cotton, animal feed, resins, wastepaper and animal feed exports.

Busiest Shipping Container Ports port-of-long-beachThe adjacent but entirely separate Port of Long Beach sits at No.20 in the table of world’s busiest shipping container ports, handling over seven million TEU’s annually. It processes $100 billion in combined imports and exports per annum. Petroleum coke is one of Long Beach’s biggest and most valuable exports.

New York and New Jersey combine to take their place at No.20, as the only other US port featuring in the world’s Top 30 busiest, with over 6 million TEU’s each year. This is a complex collection of berths, spread along the estuaries of New York City and the New Jersey Harbour estuary. It handled $208 billion in trade. In 2014 this included nearly 400,000 automobiles.

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