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China And U.S. Dominate Global Seaport Trade

  • China leads seaport trade traffic, owning seven of the world's busiest ports and having a container traffic of 263 million TEUs in 2021.
  • The U.S. comes second with notable ports in Los Angeles and New York, contributing to its 61 million TEUs in traffic.
  • Singapore and the United Arab Emirates feature prominently, with Singapore handling the highest shipping tonnage and the UAE ranking seventh in container traffic.
Seaport

According to the World Bank, global seaport trade traffic reached 841 million TEUs (20-foot container equivalent units) in 2021.

In this infographic, Visual Capitalist's Freny Fernandes and Winifred Amase use that data to highlight the countries with the highest seaport trade traffic.

China Leads All Seaport Trade Traffic

With a third of the world’s total seaport trade traffic surrounding its many ports, it’s no surprise to see China on top of the list.

In addition to owning seven of the world’s 10 busiest ports, the country also owns close to 100 ports across 63 other countries. This brought the country’s container traffic up to 263 million TEUs in 2021.

In second place is the United States, which saw container traffic of 61 million TEUs. Massive U.S. ports in Los Angeles and New York are some of the busiest ports on the continent.

Asian countries dominated the rest of the top 10 list, taking up seven of the remaining eight spots.

Singapore came in third with 37 million 20-foot container units passing through in 2021. The port handled 599 million tonnes of freight, making it the busiest single port in total shipping tonnage.

The ports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi make the United Arab Emirates a key player in Middle Eastern trade. With a container traffic of 19 million TEUs, the UAE is seventh on the list of nations with the highest seaport traffic in 2021.

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on September 13 2023 said:
    Being the world’s largest economy with a GDP of $33.0 trillion in 2023 based on purchasing power parity (PPP) compared with $26 trillion for the United States (also based on PPP), it isn’t surprising that China's seaport trade traffic at 263 million TEUs (20-foot container equivalent units) accounted for 31.3% of the global seaport traffic and was 4.31 times the size of the United States’ at 61million TEUs.

    Moreover, China’s exports in 2022 topped $3.6 trillion compared with $3.0 trillion for the United States or 20% bigger whilst its imports amounted to $3.95 trillion compared to the United States’ $2.7 trillion thus ending with a trade balance surplus of $900 bn compared with a US trade deficit of $950 bn.

    Singapore came in third place with 37 million TEUs but what was more surprising is than UAE came in seventh place with 19 million TEUs making it a very significant player in global trade.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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