According to MANA, otal volumes may have risen moderately but this was not to say that there were not any success stories over the course of the 12 months. This helped to mask some dire performances elsewhere.
Volume growth was typically fragmented. Fortunes fluctuated between regions and countries, but one common themed remained — China as the main growth engine.
All 20 Chinese ports maintained their top 100 status based on 2016 throughput numbers. With combined volumes totalling 206.8m teu, a rise of 2.7% on 2015 levels.
There were some notable standout performers from within China. Tangshan, small size compared with other ports in the country — the smallest in our rankings — saw volumes increase at breakneck speed by 27.2%. Meanwhile, medium-sized ports Taicang and Dongguan/Humen reported growth above 8%, as did Fuzhou, recording the second-highest growth level by a Chinese port of 9.1%.
Out of the 20 ports represented by the economic powerhouse that is China, seven remain in the top 10.
The largest total from an individual port unsurprisingly came from Shanghai, holding on to its crown as the world’s largest box facility and by some distance. China’s colossal port complex handled a phenomenal 37.1m teu in 2016, an annual increase of 1.6%.
Shanghai’s eight-year reign as the premier container port came amid another disappointing year for second-placed Singapore. Throughput levels here continue to be held back by an increasingly competitive environment within the Malacca Strait, as the battle for transhipment trade in the region intensifies.
China’s Shenzhen too, despite retaining its third-placed ranking, also saw volumes fall back in 2016.
Among the top Chinese ports, it was Guangzhou that came out as the winner. Although it was unable to improve on its seventh-placed status, the port reported record throughput levels of 18.9m teu. Box business grew 7% on the back of healthy domestic cargo volumes and free trade agreements signed between South Korea and China.
The other Chinese port majors Qingdao and Tianjin also reported growth last year, yet the exception along with Shenzhen was Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s annual volumes slipped below 20m teu for the first time since 2003.
Busan’s move up the rankings was the only positional change in this year’s top 10, which combined reported growth of 1.3% year on year in 2016 with total volumes of 219.4m teu.
Aside from China, the biggest representation in our rankings came once more from Asian ports outside the country, where the region’s 10 largest box facilities managed a 2.4% increase in traffic.
Singapore and Busan naturally were big contributors, yet the title of the fasting growing port in Asia outside China went to Chittagong, Bangladesh.
The port, handling more than 90% of the country’s containerised movements, which are dominated by the ready-made garment trade, moved up five places in the rankings to 71st driven by double-digit volume growth at 15.9%.
On the Asian continent there were also double-digit surges in box volumes in both Port Klang, Malaysia, and South Korea’s Incheon, reporting increases of 10.8% and 12.7% respectively. There was also a return to the top 100 rankings for the Malaysian port of Penang on the back of a 9.1% increase in volumes last year.
In the Middle East and South Asia, the region’s far and away largest port, Dubai’s Jebel Ali, saw volumes fall back. However, it did manage to hold on to its ninth-placed ranking.
Volumes in Dubai slipped 5.3% in 2016 to 14.8m teu, but the indications so far this year are that DP World’s flagship facility is likely to claw back volume losses.
California’s container port majors Los Angeles and Long Beach remained the big two in North America, but there were contrasting fortunes for the US pair.
Los Angeles reported an 8.5% rise in volume to reach all-time throughput highs, climbing one ranking place in the process to 18th, while neighbouring Long Beach dropped out of the top 20 altogether, having witnessed a 5.8% fall in container liftings.
The result came largely as a consequence of Hanjin. Whereas Los Angeles gained from diverted cargo to its docks following the Korean line’s demise, Long Beach lost a key carrier customer.
The major box ports in Latin and Central America were once again exposed to the economic frailties of the region, resulting in a disappointing 12-month period overall.
The Continent’s largest port, Rotterdam, returned to the growth trail on the back of a slight traffic dip in 2015, as volumes climbe 1.2%. But the big winner once again proved to be Antwerp. Belgium’s box hub continued where it left off the previous year with a further 4% uptick in traffic.
Russian trade restrictions made a further dent in box traffic moved through St Petersburg. The Baltic facility saw volumes sink 15% in 2016, the highest fall in percentage terms of any top 100 port, and is now in danger of falling out of the rankings altogether come this time next year.
Algeciras was reinstated as the Mediterranean’s largest container port in 2016.
The major success story in the Mediterranean, however, was Piraeus, as it looks to return to its former glories.