When we see stunning photos of the busiest ports in the world, we mostly see an array of colorful boxes- containers, lined side by side. We have seen containers on special train cars, container vessels or long bed trucks. Almost ninety percent of what we buy arrives at our doorstep via these containers, carried in ships. Goods shipped in the busiest ports of the world help feed, clothe, and supply everything we need. International shipping is indeed an invisible industry that many know nothing about.

Shipping is a logistical juggernaut that involves a lot of tasks- from packing the products to filling them into containers, loading them, undergoing security procedures, unloading, and finally distributing them. This mammoth task or rather series of tasks are conducted with the help of efficient logistics software. Let us now take a look at some of the busiest container ports in the world and what is shipped in and out of them.

Busiest of them all

In order to determine how busy a port is, the most accepted international unit is the volume of TEU. The Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) refers to the cargo capacity, which is often used as a measure of capacity of container vessels. One TEU, the capacity of a standard container, is 20 ft in length and 8 ft in width.

The port of Shanghai became the largest port in the world with a total five working areas. As of 2012, around 32 million TEUs were handled by the port. This port happens to be the chief economic gateway in China. Every month, container vessels depart for North America, Australia, Africa, and Europe.

The ten busiest ports in the world as of 2013 is listed below:

Rank Port Country Container Traffic in Thousand TEUs
1 Shanghai China 33,617
2 Singapore Singapore 32,240
3 Shenzhen China 23,280
4 Hong Kong China 22,352
5 Busan South Korea 17,690
6 Ningbo-Zhoushan China 17,351
7 Qingdao China 15,520
8 Guangzhou China 15,309
9 Jebel Ali (Dubai) United Arab Emirates 13,641
10 Tianjin China 13,010

Source: Wikipedia

What is shipped?

Now that we have an idea of the busiest ports in the world, what about the items that are shipped to these ports? The most lucrative goods in the world, as well as some of the most ordinary, everyday goods, are shipped in containers. Logistics software of high caliber is used in these ports to handle the shipping of our everyday goods. One of the largest and most influential consumer markets in the world in the USA, where goods are shipped from all over the world. Taking the US as a case study, we can identify a shipping trend easily.

Top Commodities Shipped (by weight)

Let us take a look at the top commodities by weights that are shipped to the United States through these busy ports. Take into account the fact that the heavier the items, the more likely they are to score better in the statistical data.

According to this report of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the following products were the most shipped in order of weight.

1. Furniture and furniture parts

Furniture, obviously, is the heaviest of commodities and the most shipped from all over the world. As of 2010, more than 2.3 million metric tons of furniture was shipped to the United States via the busiest ports of the world.

2. Bananas

We are not joking- bananas have taken second place in the top goods by weight. Statisticians have been eluded by the fact that in spite of being a seemingly trivial item and not weighing so much, plantain has scored so well here. Around 1.5 million metric tons of bananas have been shipped in 2010.

3. Sculpture

Worked monument, stone, art, etc. have been shipped to the US as items of great value, as well as weight. Stone sculptures are exported from all over the world as antiques and collectibles. Around 1.4 million metric tons have been shipped.

4. Motor vehicles and parts

Japan’s ports conduct some of the briskest businesses in reconditioned vehicles, while the US ships the newest cars. Motor parts and accessories have also made the list with 1.4 million metric tons of goods being shipped in 2010.

5. Coal

One of the most valuable natural resources, coal, has made the list with about 731,000 metric tons. However, weight has been much higher in 2008 and 2009. The decline in the shipping of coal is due to the fact that the world has been slowly shifting towards the use of natural resources.

From the above picture, we see that the world is heavily reliant on shipping goods that are dispatched from these busy ports of the world. These logistical marvels of the world, that are these ports, provide us with all that we need.