Top Ten Busiest Container Ports Sees Changes & Re-entries

A container port at sunset
Updated Published

Alphaliner's latest report highlights that Dubai/Jebel Ali, the Middle East’s largest container port, has reclaimed its position among the top 10 global container ports, surpassing Europe's largest port and reflecting the economic downturn in Europe.

In 2023, Jebel Ali processed 14.47 million TEUs, an increase from 13.97 million TEUs in 2022. This growth enabled the UAE port to re-enter the top 10, a spot it last held in 2019. This rise has consequently displaced Hong Kong from the top 10, with the territory experiencing a 14% year-on-year drop in container throughput to 14.34 million TEUs. 

Hong Kong has seen its volume decrease for seven consecutive years, losing a third of its container traffic over the past decade.

Rotterdam, which had surpassed Dubai in 2019, handled 13.45 million TEUs in 2023, marking a 7% decline and its second year of decreased volumes. The Dutch port has suffered significantly due to the near-total loss of Russian cargo and a major contraction in European consumer demand amid a recession, with volumes now 9% below those of 2019.

Conversely, China’s ports continued to thrive, with Qingdao seeing the most significant growth globally. It handled an estimated 30 million TEUs in 2023, potentially positioning it as the fourth largest container port in the world, closely competing with Shenzhen, which processed 29.9 million TEUs.

Alphaliner noted, “Chinese growth is not expected to be as robust in 2024, with Western demand weakening in the fourth quarter, although exports to Russia remain strong. Nevertheless, China’s grip on the global market tightened in 2023, comprising more than half (51%) of the top 30 market throughput versus 49% in 2022. Overall, the top 30 ports recorded average growth of 1.7% during the year, an improvement in 2022.”