Ocean shippers, carriers and forwarders have long known it and now the United Nations has proved it with numbers – China and Asia utterly dominate the commercial maritime world.
In a massive 14-year study going back to 2006, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has ranked 1,249 ports by how well connected they are to other ports around the world.
Commenting on the creation of the index, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics, Shamika N. Sirimanne, said, “a container port’s performance is a critical factor that can determine transport costs and, by extension, trade competitiveness.”
She added that “efficient and well-connected container ports enabled by frequent and direct shipping services are key to minimizing trade costs and fostering sustainable development.”
Of the top 20 ports, 15 are in Asia and 11 are in China. Of the non-Asian ports in the top 20, two are in Europe, one is in the Middle East (Jebel Ali) and the other is in Sri Lanka (Colombo).
Shanghai, China is the world’s most connected port with a connectivity score of 134.3. It has also been growing in its connectivity. The UN ranking is indexed to the number 100 as applied to the whole of China in 2006. Incidentally, in the first half of this year, Shanghai handled 21.5 million containers of twenty foot equivalent units (TEU), according to China’s Ministry of Transport data.
Singapore, right in the center of East Asia, takes the number two spot with 124.6 connectivity points. The city-state handled just over 18.0 million TEU in the first half of 2019, according to official data.
Korea’s Busan (referred to in the study by its old romanized name of Pusan) in the southeast region of the country, opposite Japan, was third on the list with a connectivity index of 114.5. Unfortunately, Busan does not appear to have reported its first half statistics for this year. Late in 2018 it published its 2017 data: Busan handled just under 20.5 million TEU back then.
Ningbo-Zhoushan in China was narrowly behind in fourth spot with a connectivity index of 114.3. Ningbo is part of the combined port complex of Ningbo-Zhoushan and it handled 13.9 million TEU in the first half of the year. Ningbo-Zhoushan is China’s busiest port by throughput. It handled 558 million metric tonnes of cargo (all kinds) in the first half of this year. A metric tonne is equivalent of 2,204.6 U.S. pounds. Ningbo-Zhoushan also handles the most “foreign” goods according to China’s Ministry of Transport with just under 254.6 million metric tonnes. That’s 45.6 percent of the total.
Hong Kong is the fifth most connected port in the world. It has a connectivity index of 102.8 points. Hong Kong has not yet released its 2019 half-year data. Between January to April (the latest month for which data has been released) Hong Kong handled just under 6.0 million TEU; of which 1.8 million TEU were river-borne boxes and 4.2 million were seaborne boxes.
Elsewhere on the list
No North American port makes an appearance until number 36 when New York/New Jersey enters the list with 49.9 points. Back in 2006 when the index began it had just under 36.1 connectivity points.