The World’s Busiest Cargo Ports

December 19th, 2018

The Singapore Port
The port in Singapore

Over five hundred years ago, the early stages of international shipping via ocean freight laid the foundation for what we now know as global capitalism. Despite significant advances to technology and the invention of air transport, ocean freight shipping remains the most important method to move products around the world. More than ever, port cities with great harbors are incredibly important for the global economy. These are the world’s busiest cargo ports.

Shanghai, China

In 2010, Shanghai overtook Singapore as the world’s busiest port and has only grown since. Container traffic has more than doubled in the last ten years, signaling the rise of China as the world’s premier export economy. Located on the Yangtze River, which is already one of the global economy’s most important rivers, Shanghai’s dominance is expected to further increase by the year 2030.


With its strategic location on the Strait of Malacca, Singapore has been one of the world’s most important port cities for many centuries. Nearly all the world’s freight traveling from Asia to Africa and Europe passes through there, which is why in the past ships coming from Singapore were favorite targets of pirates. For much of the 21st century Singapore was the world’s busiest port, but has since been replaced by Shanghai.

Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen port

Although not the busiest, the Port of Shenzhen is the fastest growing port in the world and is projected to increase significantly in the near future. There are more than 130 international shipping routes that originate from Shenzhen, and 39 freight companies have set up in and around the port area. Since it is located on the Pearl River, there is also access to over 20 other ports in the surrounding area.

Ningbo-Zhoushan, China

The port of Ningbo-Zhoushan is part of the massive Yangtze River delta in China. The city’s history as a port dates back to the 8th century when it was one of the major ports of the Tang Dynasty. Today there are nearly two hundred berths in the complex, including 39 deep water berths that can accommodate the world’s largest ocean liners.

Busan, South Korea

The Port of Busan is the busiest in South Korea, and one of the busiest in the world. A recent renovation of the port has expanded its capabilities and made it one of the most important trading hubs of northeast Asia. The city that has built up around the port is now the second largest in South Korea, and even served as the capital city for a time in the 1950s.