Strong recovery of port traffic in 2021

The total throughput of the more than 450 ports included in ISL’s Port Database increased by 5.4% to 21.9 billion tons in 2021, following a 3% decline in 2020. The substantial surge in global container handling has been the major driver of growth. It amounted to 730 million TEUs in 2021. Compared to the 682.5 million TEU in 2020, this is a remarkable 6.7% gain.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, average growth of container traffic reached 2.4% per annum over the past five years. In 2021, the ten largest Chinese ports alone handled 29% of the total container volume, roughly the combined volume of the following nine countries including US, South Korea and Japan.

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Vietnam was the only country in the top 10 whose container ports’ throughput increased by more than 10% from 2019 to 2020, namely 19.2%, up to 16.9 million TEU. Even countries that are used to strong growth, such as China and Malaysia, had to settle for small increases of 0.8% and 1.1%, respectively. The year 2021 then showed consistently positive annual results in the container throughput around the world. Chinese ports, for example, were able to increase their throughput from 2020 to 2021 by 6.7% to 211.6 million TEU.
The container throughput results for the first 10 months of 2022 show that after the noticeable recovery in 2021, trade is increasingly slowing down against the backdrop rising inflation and the disruption of logistics chains (for more information, please see our Monthly Container Port Monitor).
ISL’s list of fastest-growing ports mostly features ports with a high share of container traffic such as the ports of Manila/Philippines (+28.5%), Tanger/Morocco (+20.2%, after 22.6% last year), Tianjin/China (+36.5%), Nhava Sheva/India (+17.3) and Chittagong/Bangladesh (+18.7%). With a traffic growth of 50.4% up to 151.7 million tons, Corpus Christi/US stands out as the only bulk port among the fastest-growing ports.

For more details on world seaborne trade and the development of the world ports involved, see the current issue of our SSMR.

The special feature topics of each SSMR issue are:

  • Issue 1: World Merchant Fleet
  • Issue 2: Tanker Market
  • Issue 3: Bulk Carrier Market
  • Issue 4: Container Shipping
  • Issue 5: General Cargo and Container Shipping
  • Issue 6: Passenger and Cruise Shipping
  • Issue 7: Shipbuilding and Shipbuilders
  • Issue 8: Major Shipping Nations
  • Issue 9: World Seaborne Trade and World Port Traffic