With so many products being made in China it comes as no surprise that China shipping ports are among the busiest in the world.
We've looked up the figures, and in this article present the 8 China shipping ports which handle the most shipping containers.
Incredibly, 8 of the world's 17 busiest ports are in China, and if you include Hong Kong and Taiwan that number rises to 10!
Busiest Mainland China Shipping Ports
Based on container shipping, the 8 busiest Mainland China shipping ports are each located over a long section of China's east coast stretching from Shenzhen in the South to Dalian in the North, in the provinces most foreign companies are doing business in.
Of these, 7 ports are located in coastal cities, whilst the Port of Guangzhou is further inland at the confluence of 3 major rivers.
There are 6 Chinese Free Trade Zones which overlap with 7 of these 8 shipping ports.
In order, starting with the busiest, these China shipping ports are introduced below:
1. Port of Shanghai
- Includes: Yangshan Deep Water Port & Waigaoqiao Shipping Terminals
- Operator: Shanghai International Port (Group) Co., Ltd.
- Website: www.portshanghai.com.cn
In 2010 Port of Shanghai overtook Port of Singapore to become the world's busiest container port.
Now handling over 35 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) containers per year, Port of Shanghai continues to grow with more plans afoot to increase capacity.
Port of Shanghai is comprised of the gigantic Yangshan Deep-Water port - which is on an island connected to the Mainland by a 32km sea bridge - and a series of ports at the mouths of the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers.
The image above was taken by me on a visit to Yangshan Deep-Water port in 2012 - it wasn't a very clear day, but the port literally stretched to as far as the eye could see!
2. Port of Shenzhen
- Includes: Yantian Port, Chiwan Port, Dachan Bay Port, Shekou Port
- Operator: Various (including Shenzhen Yantian Port Holdings and Shenzhen Chiwan Wharf Holdings)
- Website: Various (including www.yantian-port.com)
The name "Port of Shenzhen" is a collective term for the multitude of ports located in Shenzhen City, Guangdong - an area increasingly renowned for the success of its high-tech zones and new industry.
The many ports are often geographically labelled as "East Port" or "West Port" depending on which side of the Kowloon Peninsula they sit.
"West Port" refers to a cluster of busy ports including "Chiwan", "Dachan Bay" & "Shekou", whilst the "East Port" is dominated by Shenzhen's busiest port "Yantian".
3. Port of Ningbo
- Includes: Beilun Port & Zhenhai Port
- Operator: Ningbo Zhoushan Port Group Co., Ltd.
- Website: www.nbport.com.cn
Port of Ningbo's infrastructure include a huge crude oil terminal and ore loading berth which actually contribute to it being the world's busiest port in terms of cargo tonnage, although it handles far fewer shipping containers then Shanghai and Shenzhen.
4. Port of Qingdao
- Includes: Dagang Port Area & Qianwan Container Terminal
- Operator: Qingdao Port (Group) Co., Ltd.
- Website: www.qdport.com
Famous for their beer production (you may recognize the Tsingtao logo), Qingdao is also a major port city located in Shandong province
5. Port of Guangzhou
- Includes: Nansha Terminal, Xinsha Port Area, Huangpu Port Area, Downtown Port Area
- Operator: Guangzhou Port Group Co., Ltd.
- Website: www.gzpgroup.com
Positioned at the confluence of the Dongjiang, Xijiang and Beijiang rivers, Port of Guangzhou is the main port in the Pearl River Delta region.
I took the photo above in 2016 from a hotel at Nansha port which is in the very south of Guangzhou. The majority of ships going to Port of Guangzhou need to pass under this bridge which is a key piece of road infrastructure linking Foshan and Dongguan.
6. Port of Tianjin
- Includes: North Port, South Port & East Port
- Operator: Tianjin Port (Group) Co., Ltd.
- Website: www.ptacn.com
The Port of Tianjin made international headlines in 2015 when a series of huge explosions triggered by poor chemical storage measures caused widespread damage and loss of life.
7. Port of Dalian
- Includes: Dayaowan Port
- Operator: Dalian Port (PDA) Co., Ltd.
- Website: www.dlport.cn
Dalian serves as the major port for the North East region of China and was always destined to be a port city with its prominent location on the tip of the Liaodong peninsula.
Despite being an "ice-free port" I found the city to be bitterly cold during a visit in February 2012!
8. Port of Xiamen
- Includes: Haicang Port Area & Dongdu Port Area
- Operator: Xiamen Port Holding Group
- Website: www.xpgco.com.cn
Spread out over a large region, Port of Xiamen comprises of 12 different areas - including the port of Zhangzhou since 2010 - featuring both river and deep-water facilities.
Visitors to Xiamen's famous Gulangyu island can take a ferry around the island which passes by many ports and huge container ships.
China City Tiers & Shipping Ports
You may be aware of the common system for grading Chinese cities into tiers, and each of the cities hosting the busiest China shipping ports are highly ranked.
Here is a summary:
- 1st Tier Cities: Guangzhou, Shanghai & Shenzhen
- "New" 1st Tier Cities: Ningbo, Qingdao & Tianjin
- 2nd Tier Cities: Dalian & Xiamen
Other Busy Chinese Shipping Ports
In addition to the 8 busiest ports in Mainland China, there are 2 more Chinese ports which handle a very significant amount of cargo.
These are located in Hong Kong and the city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan respectively.
Port of Hong Kong
- ncludes: Kwai Tsing Container Terminals
- Operators: Various, as identified below:
- Website: Modern Terminals Limited, Hongkong International Terminals Limited, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company, DP World, Asia Container Terminals Ltd.
The world's busiest container port as recently as 2004, Port of Hong Kong has in recent years seen its volume of shipping trade fall behind first Singapore, then in more recent year Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Despite this Port of Hong Kong remains an extremely important port for trade with South East Asia and is considered to be the gateway to Mainland China.
There are 9 container terminals at Port of Hong Kong which are operated by 5 shipping companies and plans are afoot to build a tenth.
Port of Kaohsiung
- Includes: Zhongxing Terminal
- Operator: Taiwan International Ports Corporation Ltd., Kaohsiung Branch
- Website: kh.twport.com.tw
Taiwan's second city and biggest port, Kaohsiung is located in the southwest of the island.
Handling over 10 million TEU per year, Port of Kaohsiung would rank just above Port of Dalian if included in the main list.
The image above was taken from the top of Kaohsiung's tallest building, the 85 Sky Tower, during my visit in 2011.