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Largest Ports in China [Updated: Sep 2021]

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Updated on 01 Aug 20218 min read

One of the largest port in China for your shipments with Shipa Freight

Many of the largest ports in the world can be found in China, which is of no surprise considering that the country is the number one largest exporter in the world. China is an economic powerhouse, with import and export contributing to 90% of the world trade.

If you are looking to ship to or from China, it’s worth looking at the country’s largest ports. We outline a list of the ports in China, ranked according to their overall cargo and container traffic. Because of this basis, the following ports are also the busiest, handling millions of tons of cargo and TEUs annually.

1. Port of Shanghai

The Port of Shanghai is the largest and one of the busiest ports in China, making it to the China main port list in terms of annual throughput. The Shanghai port handled an average of 40 million TEUs in 2017. Converted to a daily number, the Shanghai Port accommodates over 100,000 TEUs per day. This far exceeds the annual TEU capacity of the port that precedes it, Singapore, handling 33.7 million TEUs a year.

The Shanghai port has really grown in size and capacity since it began its operations nearly 40 years ago. Upon starting, the Port of Shanghai handled only a meager 8,000 TEUs, which grew to 40 million in 2011.

The Port of Shanghai houses the Yangshan Deep Water Port, hailed as the largest automated container terminal in the world. It is also strategically situated, established near the neighboring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

The rapid growth of the Shanghai Port makes it extremely likely that its capacity and size will continue to grow in the years to come. It’s predicted that the port will experience a yearly growth rate of 8.3%.

2. Port of Shenzhen

The Port of Shenzhen is one of the most important ports in the country, being the bridge that connects South China to the rest of the world. It is located in Guangdong Province, serving as the main port in the area and serving as a gateway to Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.

The Port of Shenzhen is divided into two subports, the eastern and western ports. Together, these total the Port of Shenzhen’s size to 260 kilometers. Its strategic location has made it an attractive import and export solution for companies around the globe, especially for the tech sector, which makes up thousands in number in Shenzhen.

In 2016, the Port of Shenzhen handled over 23.98 million TEUs, which increased to 27.7 million in 2018. It’s large throughput makes it the second-largest port in China and the third-largest in the whole world. Every month, more than 500 ships visit Shenzhen to import or export to over 130 international routes.

3. Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan

One of the biggest ports in China, the Port of Ningbo Zhoushan handles roughly 28.72 million TEUs a year, the number which grows at a whopping 4.3% annually. While only third in rank in the top 10 list of seaports in China in size, Ningbo Zhoushan has quite the portfolio.

For one, it is the first port to ever be able to handle 1 billion tons of cargo in a year. It’s also one of the three ports in the world that have exceeded an annual container volume of 28 million TEUs. The Port of Ningbo Zhoushan has 242 ocean freight routes, which link to 600 harbors all over the world.

These numbers are staggering, and when thinking about how the Ningbo Zhoushan port achieved them, it’s worth looking at the types of materials that they handle. The Port of Ningbo Zhoushan is a large handler of crude oil and ore and also houses a storage space for liquid chemicals. Another contributor to the port’s large annual throughput is its location, lying at the meeting point of the Maritime Silk Road and Silk Road Economic Belt.

The Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan was actually the result of a merger in the year 2006, between the Port of Ningbo and Port of Zhoushan. Since its merger, it has always been achieving a handful, developing new services, improving sea-rail transport lines, and more.

4. Port of Hong Kong

The Port of Hong Kong used to be the number port in the world. However, it has decreased in throughput and has fallen off the first place in 2004. The throughput and traffic in the Hong Kong part is experiencing a steady decline over the years, from 21 million TEUs in 2009 to 20 million in 2016 — and even weaker in 2017.

However, despite the throughput decline, the port of Hong Kong is still in the running as one of the largest ports in China. Hopes are high that the port will rise from its weakening traffic, especially due to its role as a cargo conduit for cargo imported to and exported from China.

But because there are larger ports now in Shenzhen and Shanghai, the port of Hong Kong faces tough competition. If the decline rate continues, Hong Kong may be knocked off the top 5 largest ports in the world.

5. Port of Guangzhou

The Port of Guangzhou is the main port operating in China’s Guangdong Province. It is located in the Pearl River, a strategic location for access to Macau and Hong Kong. This port used to be the number one in the list of the busiest Chinese cargo ports in the country in the Ming and Qing dynasties. But its reputation has not preceded it.

The Guangzhou port handled 21.8 million TEUs in the calendar year 2018, which is a large improvement from its 2016 throughput, which was 17.59 million TEUs. This steady traffic increase is owing to the Port of Guangzhou’s specialty in handling goods for the manufacturing, industrial, and agricultural industries. Another growth factor is its location, enabling it to serve the nearby provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan, Jiangxi, and Yunnan.

6. Port of Qingdao

The Port of Qingdao is another one of China’s large ports, handling 17.44 million TEUs annually, as shown by 2016 data. In 2019, the Qingdao port hit the record for 20 million TEUs handled, showcasing the continuous traffic growth of the port.

The Qingdao port is well-known as an international transshipment and reefer specialty port. The facility has a large terminal that is used to transport, handle, and store iron ore. Because of this, the Port of Qingdao is looking at development to become the world’s largest iron ore handling port. This goal is not far-fetched, considering that the Qingdao port already ranks at number 6 in metal ore throughput.

7. Port of Tianjin

When looking at Northern China individually from the rest of the country, the Port of Tianjin easily makes its way to the top of the list as the largest port. It is also hailed as the largest man-made seaport in its country, covering 100 square kilometers of land.

The Port of Tianjin was formerly known as the Port of Tangu. It was one of the early-established trading ports in China, beginning operations as early as the Han Dynasty. Records show that the Tianjin port has handled huge amounts of cargo, the numbers of which are significantly increasing year by year. Below is a summary.

Calendar Year: 1993 TEUs Handled: 490,000 TEUs

Calendar Year: 2012 TEUs Handled: 10 million TEUs

Calendar Year: 2013 TEUs Handled: 13 million TEUs

The Port of Tianjin shows a very confident growth rate in terms of annual TEUs handled. A contributor to this is its location, being the main port serving 11 Northern provinces in China, including Mongolia, and being the main gateway and nearest port to Beijing. The Tianjin port also connects Northeast , Central, and West Asia, making it among the most connected ports in the world.

8. Port of Dalian

When ranking China’s largest ports in terms of size, the Port of Dalian makes it to the top five spot, spanning 134 square miles of water area and 5.8 square miles in land area. This deep water port is considered a large transshipment hub for containers in China, connecting more than 160 countries around the world.

Although Dalian still makes it to the top 10 largest ports in China by virtue of annual throughput, the port is experiencing a huge decline and registered with the largest annual percentage decline in throughput. The Port of Dalian is seeing a 41.7% container throughput decline and reduces 3.7 million TEUs yearly.

The rapid decline of container throughput can be owing to several factors, including:

  • Hinterland shifts
  • Weaking GDP
  • Reefer shipments that are opting to ship to the Yingkou chinese port cities

9. Port of Xiamen

The second to the last in the list of largest Chinese ports is the Port of Xiamen, which is located on the Jiulongjiang River in the province of Fujian. This situated the Xiamen port within close vicinity to Taiwan, making it the closest mainland port and the first to ship cargo directly to the Kaohsiung Port in Taiwan. This contributes to the Xiamen Port’s high annual throughput.

In 2013, the Port of Xiamen had a calendar year throughput of 8.08 million TEUs. It’s also well-known for its services that offer 65 shipping routes connecting to more than 50 countries worldwide.

10. Port of Yingkou

Last but not the least is the Port of Yingkou, located in Northeast China and is the second-largest port in its region. Yingkou has been seeing an increase in annual traffic, handling over 4 million TEUs in 2010 and even more later at 5.92 million TEUs in 2016.

The main types of cargo handled by the Port of Yingkou include:

  • Grain
  • Sugar
  • Coal
  • Steel
  • Minerals
  • Vehicles

Although the annual throughput of the Yingkou Port is voluminous, it wasn’t until 2015 when it became part of the global list of top 50 container ports.