🚢 Infographic: The 30 busiest ports in the world. Check the largest ports worldwide and their crucial role in global trade. Download now.

The 30 busiest ports in the world.

Sea transport is a crucial component of global goods transportation, with ports playing a vital role. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), over 90% of global trade is conducted by sea, whether in dry bulk, break bulk, or containerized cargo. Therefore, ocean shipping lanes are essential to the sea freight industry and the global economy.

To meet increasing global demand, both container ships and port infrastructure have significantly expanded over time. Modern container ships can now transport over 18,000 TEUs per voyage, with some vessels capable of carrying up to 25,000 TEUs—50 times the capacity of the earliest cargo ships.

On a global scale, the capacity of container ports has steadily increased each year since records began. In 2002, container ports worldwide handled approximately 380 million TEUs of containerized cargo. This capacity is projected to reach nearly 1.3 billion TEUs.

Busiest ports in the world: A significant concentration in East Asia.

Asia’s ports dominate the list with a very clear winner. As the world’s largest exporter and the second-largest importer, China accounted for about 13% of global trade volume in 2020, and growing every year. The country’s ports are critical to facilitating its substantial trade with the rest of the world, serving as primary gateways for many regions and countries.

As of 2023, 8 of the top 10 container ports in the world were in Asia, 6 of which located in China. These ports handle a significant portion of the world’s containerized cargo, which is vital for transporting manufactured goods, electronics, clothing, machinery, and raw materials for the feed and food industries.

The 30 busiest ports in the world.

Understanding TEU: A Key Metric

TEU, or twenty-foot equivalent unit, is a standard measurement used to gauge the capacity of container ships and ports. A TEU refers to a shipping container approximately 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. It can accommodate 9 to 11 pallets, depending on the type of pallet. Two TEUs equal one forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU).

Knowing what a TEU is is essential when measuring a port’s capacity and determining shipping costs. Shipping rates are typically quoted per TEU, so to calculate the total cost, multiply the rate per TEU by the number of TEUs in your shipment.