Photo: APM Terminals Tanger

Hong Kong fell out of the world’s top 10 container ports last year, for the first time in the history of container shipping, according to new data from Alphaliner on the world’s busiest 30 box ports.

HK saw traffic last year drop 14.1%, to 14.3m teu, establishing the long-term decline of what was always a leading container port – 20 years ago it regularly vied with Singapore and Shanghai for the title of the world’s busiest – deposed from 2023’s tenth ranking by Dubai.

“Dubai overtook two of its nearest competitors in 2023 to make the top 10, a position it previously occupied in 2018. As earlier predicted by Alphaliner, it moved ahead of Hong Kong, which posted its seventh year of consecutive volume declines and has now lost a third of its container traffic over the past decade,” Alphaliner wrote today.

The only other major port to have suffered a greater fall in volumes than Hong Kong was New York & New Jersey, which saw its throughput decline 17.7%, to 7.8m teu, for the year.

“It was not alone in the US: Los Angeles, Long Beach and east coast port Savannah, a surprise feature in the top 30 during the pandemic, saw throughput drop year on year by 13%, 12% and 16%, respectively.

“Nonetheless, the pandemic has so far been net positive for Long Beach and New York/New Jersey, with volumes still up on 2019 numbers,” Alphaliner said.

Last year saw two new entrants to the top 30 – China’s Qinzhou grew 13.1%, to reach 6.1m teu, in position 26, while Vietnam’s Cai Mep was ranked 30th with a throughput of 5.6m teu, flat in terms of growth, but allowing it to overtake Savannah and Manila, which both posted declining volumes.

Listen to this clip from the latest episode of The Loadstar Podcast to hear about the decline of Hong Kong Port:

Europe’s three largest ports, and only entrants in the top 30, Rotterdam, Antwerp-Bruges and Hamburg, each fell two places on the back of mid-single-digit volume declines, largely attributed to the continuing absence of Russian transhipment traffic.

Other ports with significant growth included India’s Mundra, which “has now firmly reestablished itself as India’s leading port, with 2023 growth of 11.2%, to 7.2m teu, that saw it overtake Colombo to become the subcontinent’s largest box port”.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan transhipment hub of Tanger Med climbed three places, after 13.4% growth, to reach 8.6m teu, although Alphaliner noted it was now becoming “dangerously close” to being at its limit.

“Volumes for the Moroccan port have risen 80% since 2019 – last year’s figure of 8.6m teu is equivalent to 95% of the port’s nominal capacity, and reaches targets set by the port authority four years ahead of schedule,” it said.

At the top of the rankings there was no change: Shanghai retained first position, followed by Singapore and Ningbo.

With a throughput of a little over 49.1m teu, Shanghai needs to see around 2% growth this year to see it go past the 50m teu milestone in 2024.

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