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Top 100 ports show stable growth in 2018 handling 616m TEU


BOX volumes at the world's top 100 container ports reached 616.7 million TEU in 2018, representing an increase of 4.8 per cent year on year.

Following the six per cent growth in 2017, the uptick last year - while softening slightly - marked a period of much-needed stability for the container port sector, following several years of only moderate rises.

Last year's return to form coincided with the comeback of strong growth in China, a country whose performance is linked intrinsically to the wider market, reports UK's Lloyd's List.

If China wallows the reverberations are felt globally. So it was most welcome that the trend of strong numbers out of China continued into 2018 to provide the foundations for another fruitful 12 months.

Apart from China, growth across world regions was typically fragmented.

Strong performances came from the developing markets with Southeast Asian as well as Central and South American ports faring especially well, which contributed handsomely to the overall growth total.

Volume growth in the Mediterranean was equally robust as demand for transshipment grew, while the end-of-year rush to beat tariffs on Chinese imports in the US ensured a healthy North American showing.

Indeed, the only regions not to report mid- to high-single-digit percentage growth were the Middle East and Northern Europe.

Shanghai held on to its accolade as the world's largest container port in 2018 handling more than 42 million TEU, up 4.4 per cent.

However, second-placed Singapore closed the gap after witnessing an 8.7 per cent volume leap last year, as the transshipment hub benefited from full-year exposure to its alliances wins in 2017.

At the top of rankings, Ningbo-Zhoushan leapfrogged compatriot Shenzhen to climb into the top three for the first time - albeit only just, with a margin of around 600,000 TEU.

The big mover in 2019 among the upper echelons of the top 100 was Guangzhou moving up to fifth position, swapping places with Hong Kong, which fell to seventh, and above Busan, which stayed at sixth.

Elsewhere in the top 10, Qingdao held on to eighth position, while fellow Chinese port Tianjin outstripped Dubai, as the Middle East giant struggled to fend off transshipment competition in the region.

In terms of throughput percentage growth, King Abdullah topped the pile. The Saudi port finished the year with figures of 2.3 million TEU, up 35.8 per cent on its 2017 total, with carriers making the most of the transshipment opportunities provided by its strategic Red Sea location, requiring minimal deviation from Suez-transiting services.

The trio of Abu Dhabi, Buenos Aires and Gdansk were the only other ports to report increases of more than 20 per cent in 2018.

The unfortunate title of 'biggest loser' in 2018 was the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, where significant gains the previous year were effectively wiped out in one fell swoop as US sanctions took their toll, prompting a 22.5 per cent drop in box numbers and, with it, sliding 17 ranking places.

Other ports reporting double-digit downgrades in throughput totals were the Panamanian port of Balboa, Salalah in Oman, China's Dongguan and the UAE's Khorfakkan.