Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Containers: traffic from the world's major ports in 2022

March 16 2023

INFOGRAPHICS. The ranking of the main container world ports in 2022 reveals a clear decline in traffic for many establishments, after an outstanding year 2021. Asia, and in particular China, confirmed its domination.

Article last updated on 27 April 2023

1/The global Top 20

In 2022, the world's top 20 ports generated a cumulative traffic of 382.8 million TEUs, a slight increase of 0.5% compared to the previous year, according to Upply's 2022 World Container Port Rankings. For most of them, the beginning of the year was particularly dynamic, in line with 2021, which was a year of very strong growth. However from the second half of 2022, the economic slowdown began to become significantly noticeable.


Data source: Port authorities, Chinese Ministry of Transport.

Chinese ports confirmed their dominance, taking 4 of the top 5 places in the global ranking and 7 of the top 10 places. The 8 Chinese ports in the world's Top 20 generated 55.1% of its combined traffic, up from 53.8% in 2021. All recorded an increase in 2022, with the exception of Hong Kong.

More generally, platforms in Asia continued to strengthen their influence, with 14 facilities included in the Top 20. This is one more than in 2021, Hamburg having lost its No. 20 spot to the Thai port of Laem Chabang. In the top 10, despite a fall in their traffic, Singapore and the Korean port of Busan have maintained their second and seventh places respectively. Globally, Asian ports account for 81.6% of the Top 20's traffic, compared to 7.5% for US ports and 7.3% for European ports.

In the US, ports on the Western seaboard have been significantly affected by congestion, which has disrupted activity and prompted diversion to the Eastern seaboard. If we combine the results of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, this logistics ecosystem remains the No.1 gateway to the United States, with a cumulative traffic of 19 million TEUs, placing it 9th in the world ahead of Hong Kong.

On the other hand, if we split the results of Los Angeles and Long Beach, these American platforms find themselves in the bottom quarter of the Top 20. In this configuration, Rotterdam retains its No.10 spot, despite a fall of 5.5%. Antwerp, the 2nd and last European port in the Top 20, seeing as Hamburg is now out of it, also manages to maintain its 12th place. However this apparent stability is misleading because the results for 2022 integrate the figures for both Antwerp and Zeebrugge, following the merger of the two ports.

2/ European Top 10

Precise statistics on European ports are not yet available. However, preliminary results allow us to identify market trends. Cumulative container traffic from the top 10 ports fell by about 5%, with a more significant slowdown beginning in the second half of the year.


Data source: port authorities, press articles - *Estimate; **Results of the Piraeus Container Terminal (Source: Cosco)

The North Range ports still dominate the game, monopolising the first three places on the podium. The Top 3, which accounts for 56% of all traffic for the Top 10, remains unchanged from 2021: Rotterdam is ahead of its Belgian neighbour Antwerp, now merged with Zeebrugge, as well as the German port of Hamburg. All three experienced a fairly similar decline of around 5%.

A detailed analysis of the figures for Rotterdam sheds interesting light on the factors that influenced the development of traffic in 2022. Traffic in tonnes fell by 9.6%, compared with a 5.5% drop in the number of containers. “The difference is explained by a strong increase in full container arrivals from Asia in the first nine months of the year, due to strong demand for consumer goods. At the same time, exports fell and many more empty containers were shipped back” the port authority said. In other words, for most of 2022, the number one port in Europe continued to suffer from the logistical disruptions that had begun in 2021, causing congestion of terminals and in distribution centers within the port and in the hinterland."Transhipment cargo, in particular, therefore shifted to other ports where capacity was still available," the port authority said. Then, in the 4th quarter, the slowdown in the global economy began to have an impact on flows. However, for the Rotterdam Port Authority, the main explanation for 2022's decline lies in the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia that followed. Before the war, more than 8% (in TEUs) of Rotterdam's container traffic was linked to Russia. “Rotterdam had a 40% market share in this traffic. These volumes practically disappeared after March," the port said in a statement. An argument also put forward by Antwerp and also Bremen/Bremerhaven which holds the 4th place among the North Sea ports present in this Top 10.

On the Mediterranean coast, Spain still stands out with three ports in the Top 10. However, it was a difficult year for Valencia, which suffered significant declines in the export of full containers but more significantly in transhipment traffic, down almost 17%. The other two Spanish ports in the Top 10, Algeciras and Barcelona, performed well, recording an almost stable number of containers shipped. The competition from the other side of the Mediterranean is tough. Tanger Med continues to grow, with an increase of 6% in 2022 bringing the Moroccan port's traffic to 7.6 million TEUs. In the European Top 10, only Gioia Tauro did better, with an estimated growth of 7.1%. As for Piraeus, on the other hand, the figures available at this stage suggest a significant decline that can be attributed to the economic difficulties and upheavals caused by China's Zero Covid policy. Finally, outside the Top 10, we can note the very honorable performance of the port of Marseille which, with an increase of 3%, has reached 1.53 M TEUs and as such broke a new record.

3/ US Top 10

Analysis of 2022 results from US ports vividly demonstrates the plight of the West Coast, which for much of the year faced congestion problems. The four main ports on the West Coast recorded cumulative traffic of 24.8 million TEUs, down by 5.6%, whereas the four main ports on the East Coast saw their traffic jump by 4.8% to 21.9 million TEUs. Globally, if we add up the figures of the ten main US ports, we see almost perfect stability of traffic with a cumulative total of 51.9 million TEUs, compared with 52 million in 2021.


Data source: port authorities - *Fiscal Year 2022 (1 October 2021-30 September 2022)

Obviously, if we combine the results of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California remains by far the No.1 gateway to the United States. But when we separate the results of the two locations, we note that in 2022, New York / New Jersey manages to place itself between these two on the podium. The East Coast's No. 1 port has clearly benefited from the severe congestion that has hit California's ports. A situation that was only resolved at the end of the year.

This shift in flows is felt across the board notably in the Top 3 in terms of growth, as shown by the results of Savannah and Norfolk, and the even more spectacular growth of Houston.

4/ China's Top 10

In 2022, the top 10 Chinese ports recorded cumulative traffic of 212.8 million TEUs, an increase of 4.7% compared to 2021. This performance is surprising, given the Zero Covid policy-induced lockdowns that have punctuated the year in China. These restrictions have affected the production of factories, but also occasionally the operation of certain port installations. The overall growth may also be explained by the fact that at the beginning of the year economic dynamics were still very favourable.


Source: Chinese Ministry of Transport

The results for Shanghai, however, illustrate the unpredictability seen in 2022. The port experienced only a modest increase of 0.6%, but this does not affect its very dominant position as the world's number 1, well ahead of Singapore. Shanghai has faced periods of lockdown that have impacted its growth. This may, however, partly explain Ningbo's positive performance, as some flows could have been redirected there.

Another port stands out in the 2022 Top 10: Beibu Gulf. It has shown the highest growth in the Top 10, driven by the development of trade between China and Southeast Asia. The top 10 itself remains almost unchanged, with only the port of Yingkou being replaced by that of Liangyungang.

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Graduated from the Superior School of Journalism in Lille, Anne spent most of her career in the international trade and logistics press, before joining Upply.
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