Visualizing the World's Busiest Ports

Aug 20, 2020 Douglas Parker Douglas Parker

Ports make up a vital part of our global economy. They generate profound economic benefits for the country and city they are located in through their vast operations and contribute significantly to global GDP. We live in a global economy in the modern age. We are all linked by the internet, and we still rely on the infrastructure of ports to get items from one place to another.

It's well known that trade between nations makes a significant contribution towards the increase in wealth across the world population, and it's estimated that between 80-90% of world trade is seaborne, even in the modern age of air travel. Seaborne shipping is still the most efficient and affordable option for a lot of businesses, so the biggest seaport in the world is still incredibly important to trade. 

If you look at the 20 biggest ports all over the world, just a single port from the US makes the list. Three are European and a huge number are in Asia. This article focuses on the busiest ports and also their importance for the global economic output and the connection between countries to suit the 21st century. 

Some of the figures on the volume of goods that pass through these ports can be hard to visualize. For instance, some busy ports can handle 40 million units of 20 ft containers. This could, in theory, mean billions of products passing between the ports ready for sale in other parts of the world. We could go on for a long time discussing global trade and the historic significance. Without it, the world would be a very different place. So, how are these ports regulated, and which ports should be considered as the biggest and busiest?

What are the top busiest ports in the world?

Shanghai is the biggest seaport in the world. The volume at which they trade is measured by a metric called TEU. This port passes over 40 million of these units through and is of huge economic significance globally. Each month, around 2,000 ships leave this port carrying goods and make it the busiest port in the world. 

Singapore also has one of the world's busiest ports, with a focus on oil, petroleum, gas, and cement. Ports in Ningbo-Zhoushan, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, all in China, all handle more than 20 million TEU each year. This is a huge number, and all play a pivotal role in exporting to the USA and all over the globe.

Rotterdam is another significant port on the list, it isn’t one of the largest ports in the world, and it doesn’t move anywhere near the same number of units, but it is tactically a hugely important port serving as a key point for goods to enter and leave Europe.

What are the biggest ports in the United States?

The US doesn’t boast the world's largest ports, but the ports it does have are key to the economy and play such a significant role in global politics and even in the global economy. The big ports of the States should not be underestimated.

In LA, almost 10 million TEU are shifted each calendar year. Over 500,000 people are employed here and other economies are even said to be supported by the business of the Los Angeles port. Trans-pacific trade simply wouldn’t be the same without it, as around 20% of all imported cargo for all of the USA comes through this port, making this among the world's busiest ports.

Long Beach is another key player. It’s very busy to LA port but imports and exports to much of Asia and the rest of the world. Regardless of its proximity to the biggest port, the USA has to offer, it still manages to be the second biggest in terms of TEU per year, shifting around 8 million units.

The New York/New Jersey port is on the opposite coastline which means that it is better placed for some of the exports and imports to Europe and anywhere else over the Atlantic. This is the 3rd busiest of the ports the US has to offer and therefore one of most important if not busiest ports in the world. The link between the USA and Europe is a vital one, and the port in New York and New Jersey is arguably the most important player in this trade connection.

How Does The Federal Government Regulate?

America doesn’t have the largest ports in the world, but they are still hugely busy. As you can imagine, the federal government has a mammoth task on its hands with regulating such massive industries and epicenters of international trade. The volume of cargo that transports through these ports each day is staggering, and unfortunately, this makes it a target for all kinds of illegal trafficking and smuggling. A breach of any of these laws would be followed by an investigation from a federal criminal defense attorney. Without strict regulations on the way ports work, there could be illegal goods processed and these could easily flood the country. Drugs are an example of the sort of prohibited items that could be smuggled in covertly.

In addition to this, ports as big as this raises significant concerns over energy usage, waste, carbon emissions, environmental issues (such as oil spillages), and so on. To make matters more complicated, Unlike Canadian, Japanese, and European ports that are both owned and operated by their respective governments, American ports are merely regulated by the federal government.

The job of preventing all of these issues is undeniably huge, but the government has put an agency in place to create and enforce regulations.

The regulatory body that is charged with the supervision of all port activities in the USA is the Federal Maritime Commission, this has been the case since the 1960’s when the FMC was first created. If you want to improve your shipping business process, it would be wise to study the scope of their regulation to get a full understanding of how they operate. For comprehensive coverage on such details, you can read The Federal Regulation of American Port Activities.

Though America doesn’t have the world's biggest ports, it has some of the busiest and most important when it comes to the economy. America’s wealth owes a lot to it’s booming system of ports for goods coming in, or even being exported to other countries around the world. 

Douglas Parker handles content management and communications for Manshoory Law Group, APC. He has always had a special interest in the sphere of Law and Human Rights. Dedicating a lot of his free time to understanding the small details and specifics of these fields, Douglas enjoys exploring and analyzing them in his articles. His main goal is to make this sometimes complicated information available and transparent for everyone.