Top 50 Container Ports in 2016: Shanghai tightens grip on crown

Top 50 Container Ports in 2016: Shanghai tightens grip on crown

Shanghai remains the world's preeminent port by volume.

Shanghai’s 1.6 percent growth to 37.13 million TEU in 2016 reinforced its position as the world’s busiest container port as two newcomers joined the rankings and transshipment hubs felt the effects of industry consolidation.

It is Shanghai’s seventh year atop the rankings, but Singapore, which recorded a 0.1 percent traffic decline to 30.9 million TEU, will become more competitive following the merger of CMA CGM and APL. The carriers have established a key operations center in Singapore and made it a focus of their merged global shipping network.

Rounding out the Top 5 world container ports were Shenzhen, Ningbo-Zhoushan, and Hong Kong. Although traffic at Hong Kong declined 2.3 percent last year to 19.6 million TEU, the rate of decline is greatly improved over that of 2015, when traffic fell nearly 10 percent. Hong Kong in August recorded its first year-over-year growth on a monthly basis since June 2014.

Busan is perhaps the most noteworthy performer on the Top 50, as traffic was basically flat, down just 0.1 percent to 19.45 million TEU despite the 2016 bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, which operated a major terminal in the port and was the port’s largest single customer. Long Beach, where Hanjin operated the port’s biggest terminal and was also a large customer, was more impacted by Hanjin’s failure, as traffic fell 5.4 percent to 6.8 million TEU.

Other transshipment hubs were not so lucky last year, particularly in Panama. Balboa, on the Pacific Coast, nearly slid off the ranking after traffic fell 9.1 percent to 2.99 million TEU, and Colon on the Atlantic side fared little better; traffic declined 9 percent to 3.26 million TEU. A good deal of that decline is likely due to the opening of the larger locks of the Panama Canal. As the size of ships able to pass through the canal more than doubled to more than 13,000 TEU, transshipment at either end of the canal became less necessary.

The consolidation of ocean carriers also likely played a role in the declines at the Panama ports and could help explain the 9 percent decline in traffic at Tanjung Pelepas to 8.28 million TEU. Between consolidation and the reorganization of the global vessel-sharing agreements in April, big changes are likely in store for the transshipment hubs on these rankings, as the new networks prioritized direct calls at the expense of transshipment. Those impacts will be most acute in Southeast Asia, where a glut of port capacity gives shipping lines plenty of leverage to secure lower rates.

In Europe, the port of Antwerp expanded throughput 4 percent to 10.04 million TEU. It is the first time the port has handled more than 10 million TEU, and that growth brought it closer to Europe’s top container gateway, Rotterdam, which recorded growth of 1.4 percent to 12.4 million TEU. Both ports built on their lead over Europe’s third-largest port of Hamburg, where traffic inched up 0.9 percent to 8.9 million TEU.

In North America, Vancouver, British Columbia, fell from the Top 50 ranking, where it held the No. 49 spot, as traffic declined 4.1 percent to 2.9 million TEU. As mentioned, Long Beach suffered from the loss of Hanjin Shipping, but Los Angeles traffic grew 7.8 percent to 8.8 million TEU. Combined, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would have come in at No. 10 in 2016 with 15.6 million TEU.

Only one port in South America, Santos, made the Top 50, falling four spots to No. 43, as Brazil continues to work its way out of recession. The port has grown, but that progress could be threatened by political upheaval and struggles with dredging. Traffic at Santos fell 4.8 percent to 3.6 million TEU last year.

Elsewhere in the world, Jebel Ali was the only non-Asian port in the Top 10, with throughput at the Middle Eastern transshipment hub inching up 0.8 percent to 15.73 million TEU. The other representatives of the Middle East on the rankings were Sharjah, where traffic jumped 17.6 percent to 4 million TEU, and Jeddah, where traffic declined 5.6 percent to 3.96 million TEU.

The JOC Top 50 World Container Ports
Global port throughput, 2015 versus 2016, in millions of TEU*
RankPortCountry201620152015-2016 %
Volume Change
1 Shanghai China 37.13 36.54 1.6% Again surged ahead of Singapore for 2016 top ranking. Shanghai port is supported by three areas — Wusongkou, Waigaoqiao, and the deep-water Yangshan. Gateway port for the Yangtze River Delta.
2 Singapore Singapore 30.90 30.92 -0.1% World's busiest transshipment hub. PSA's global terminal operations, including Singapore, handled 67.63 million TEU in 2016 with 30.9 million TEU by flagship PSA Singapore and 36.73 million TEU overseas.
3 Shenzhen China 23.97 24.2 -1.0% Adjacent to Hong Kong and south of the Pearl River Delta in China’s Guangdong Province. Wal-Mart has its Asian headquarters and global procurement center in the special economic zone. Shenzhen includes Da Chan Bay, Yantian, Chiwan, and Shekou.
4 Ningbo-Zhoushan China 21.60 20.63 4.7% Nearby and south of Shanghai, in the Yangtze River Delta in Zhejiang province. Port operator Ningbo Port Group Co. is on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Ningbo offers regularly scheduled intermodal rail service to the hinterlands.
5 Hong Kong China 19.60 20.07 -2.3% Hong Kong held top rank from 1999 to 2004 and was ousted from fourth place in 2015 rankings by Ningbo-Zhoushan.
6 Busan South Korea 19.45 19.46 -0.1% South Korea's top port serves Northeast Asia as a transshipment hub with over half its volume, which remained steady despite the collapse of its biggest customer, Hanjin Shipping.
7 Guangzhou China 18.90 17.22 9.8% South China port at the estuary of the Pearl River in Guangdong province, near Hong Kong and Macau. Comprehensive port includes Nansha, Xinsha, Huangpu, and Inner Harbor areas. Direct Taiwan service.
8 Qingdao China 18.00 17.47 3.0% International transshipment and reefer specialty port located in the Shandong province in the Yellow River basin in eastern China.
9 Jebel Ali UAE 15.73 15.6 0.8% Dubai is parent DP World's flagship facility. Globally, DP World handled 63.7 million TEU in 2016 across its nearly 80 marine and inland terminals.
10 Tianjin China 14.49 14.11 2.7% The largest port in North China is on the Haibe River Estuary, Bohai Bay. The artificial port serves 11 northern provinces and Mongolia and has recovered from a massive August 2015 explosion.
11 Port Klang Malaysia 13.20 11.89 11% On the industrial west coast, the busiest Malaysian container port is a national load center and regional hub.
12 Rotterdam Netherlands 12.40 12.23 1.4% Europe's largest container port by TEU volume grew 20 percent in land when the seawall at Maasvlakte 2 in the North Sea was completed.
13 Kaohsiung Taiwan 10.46 10.26 1.9% The southwestern coast port city is the largest city in southern Taiwan and has direct cross-strait shipping opportunities with mainland China.
14 Antwerp Belgium 10.04 9.65 4.0% Landlord port on the River Scheldt broke 10 million TEU for the first time last year, closing its gap with Rotterdam and expanding its lead over Hamburg.
15 Dalian China 10.00 9.45 5.8% At entrance of Bohai Bay, the northeastern Liaoning province deep-water port is listed on the Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges. The group also owns the largest oil storage base in China and operates many oil/liquefied chemical berths.
16 Xiamen China 9.60 9.18 4.6% Southeastern port on the Jiulongjiang River estuary in the Fujian Province is the closest mainland port to Taiwan and positioned for cross-straits trade. Opened to foreign direct investment in the 1980s. XIPC was the first port operator stock listing in Hong Kong.
17 Hamburg Germany 8.90 8.82 0.9% The port rail hub is the largest rail container-handling facility in Europe. More than 1,100 international and domestic rail connections serve the port weekly.
18 Los Angeles US 8.80 8.16 7.8% The Los Angeles and Long Beach combined volume of 15.6 million TEU would rank No. 10 in 2016.
19 Tanjung Pelepas Malaysia 8.28 9.1 -9.0% On the Straits of Johor, just north of Singapore, it is the second-largest container port in Malaysia. Began its operations in early 2000 as alternative to Singapore. Maersk and Evergreen pioneered the port as a primary Southeast Asia hub.
20 Keihin ports Japan 7.61 7.52 1.2% Japan's superport hub on Tokyo Bay unifies Yokohama, Kawasaki, and Tokyo, Japan's largest container port.
21 Laem Chabang Thailand 7.20 6.82 5.6% Eastern Thai landlord port seeks Southeast Asia hub status as deep-water port serving super post-Panamax vessels.
22 Long Beach US 6.80 7.19 -5.4% Second-busiest US container port after Los Angeles.
23 New York and New Jersey US 6.25 6.37 -1.9% A landlord port and North America's busiest East Coast port. Has completed raising the Bayonne Bridge roadway to increase air draft 64 feet to 215 feet to accommodate larger ships.
24 Yingkou China 6.01 5.92 1.5% In the middle of the Liaondong Peninsula, this port includes the Yingkou Old Port and Bayuquan New Port that is close to the sea from both inner Mongolia and Northeast China. Cosco Pacific is in a joint venture (JV) container terminal with the port authority.
25 Colombo Sri Lanka 5.70 5.19 9.8% A JV with China Merchants garners the port a 15 percent share in the first terminal in South Harbor, the Colombo International Container Terminal, under 35-year build-operate-transfer terms.
26 Ho Chi Minh City/Cai Mep Vietnam 5.60 5.31 5.5% US retailers source consumer goods with carriers offering direct US sailings. Under government orders, the industry is continuing to move congested urban HCMC/Saigon terminal facilities to facilitate overall southern gateway port network systems.
27 Bremen/Bremerhaven Germany 5.49 5.48 0.2% Bremen-Bremerhaven and Lower Saxony share ownership and management of JadeWeserPort, the only German deep-water port.
28 Suzhou China 5.40 5.1 5.9% In Jiangsu province, on lower Yangtze River. Cluster includes Zhangjiagang, Changshu, and Taicang.
29 Hanshin ports Japan 5.02 4.93 1.8% Japan's Hanshin superport hub on Osaka Bay unifies Kobe, Osaka, and Sakai-Senboku under the Kobe-Osaka International Port Corp.
30 Tanjung Priok Indonesia 4.95 5.2 -4.8% Indonesia's state-owned port operator now known as IPC, Indonesia Port Corp., is in the midst of expanding its space-constrained East Java port. MOL's new offshore terminal at New Priok or Kalibaru in Jakarta opened this summer. HPH operates the nearby JICT, currently the largest container terminal in Indonesia.
31 Mundra India 4.80 2.99 60.5% Home to India's largest special economic zone, Mundra is operated by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone and working to double capacity to 6 million TEU annually
32 Algeciras Spain 4.76 4.52 5.3% Near Gibraltar, Algeciras is central to both east-west and north-south trade lanes and Suez Canal users.
33 Lianyungang China 4.70 5.01 -6.2% In eastern coastal Jiangsu province. The Longhai Railway starts at Lianyungang and connects through Russia to Europe — the new Silk Road, Asian-European continent corridor.
34 Valencia Spain 4.66 4.62 0.9% Highest container traffic in Spain. Includes Valencia, Sagunto, and Gandia ports. Seeks to be the main deep-sea gateway on the Iberian peninsula for the Americas and the Far East.
35 Manila Philippines 4.52 4.23 6.9% ICTSI won the Manila International Container Terminal 25+25 concession in 1988 — the first privatization of a Philippines port. The first Subic Bay Freeport container terminal opened from the private sector is operated by a unit of ICTSI and helps allieviate Manila conjestion while serving post-Panamax ships.
36 Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust India 4.50 4.49 0.2% A state-owned port trust on India's west coast. Port terminals, include JN Port terminal, two adjacent DP World terminals, and a Gateway Terminal-majority owned by APM Terminals. PSA International is currently constructing another terminal set to open by year's end.
37 Felixstowe UK 4.10 4.00 2.5% Felixstowe South is the UK's first deep-water port container terminal. The largest UK container port is a member of Hutchison Ports as are nearby London Thamesport and Harwich.
38 Hai Phong Vietnam 4.10 3.87 5.9% Hai Phong, located on the East Sea coast, is the largest port in north Vietnam.
39 Sharjah UAE 4.00 3.40 17.6% Gulftainer is a privately owned independent port operator based in the United Arab Emirates and works on behalf of the port authority for the Sharjah, Port Khalid, Khorfakkan container terminals/inland container and warehousing depot. Among its global portfolio, it has a 35-year Port Canaveral cargo terminal concession.
40 Jeddah Saudi Arabia 3.96 4.19 -5.6% The majority of Saudi Arabian container throughput goes through this Red Sea coastal port. The port facilities are privatized. Gulftainer operates the Northern Container Terminal in Jeddah as well as other global terminals, including in the Americas.
41 Savannah US 3.64 3.74 -2.6% Second-busiest US East Coast container port is working to deepen its harbor and expand on-dock rail operations.
42 Northwest Seaport Alliance US 3.62 3.53 2.4% Seattle and Tacoma formed the Northwest Seaport Alliance in 2015 in order to rationalize capacity and better compete with Canadian rivals.
43 Santos Brazil 3.60 3.78 -4.8% Brazil's largest container port has opened several new terminals in the last few years. The worst recession in Brazilian history pulled down volume last year.
44 Piraeus Greece 3.47 3.32 4.5% The Cosco Pacific-owned port is seen as a critical link in China's Belt and Road.
45 Tanjung Perak Indonesia 3.31 3.12 6.1% In Surabaya, East Java, it is the second-largest container port in Indonesia after Tanjung Priok, Jakarta.
46 Colon Panama 3.26 3.58 -9.0% On the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. Terminals include Panama Port Co. and PSA's Panama International Terminal.
47 Marsaxlokk Malta 3.08 3.06 0.7% The central Mediterranean transshipment hub in Malta opened in 1988 and was privatized in 2004.
48 Nanjing China 3.07 2.94 4.4% The port has been awarded funds for shore power for ships as China cracks down on harmful emissions that cause global warming.
49 Rizhao China 3.01 2.81 7.1% Home to four container terminals, the port has more than 30 international trade routes, including Asia-Europe rail.
50 Balboa Panama 2.99 3.29 -9.1% On the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. Terminals include Panama Port Co. and PSA's Panama International Terminal.
Port authorities, IHS Markit: Ports & Terminals, Alphaliner

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