Maritime transport – The world’s top ports by continent

The world's top ports by continent - Strapa-pack

Maritime transport is a cheap and popular form of transportation. Ports serve as important hubs, facilitating the delivery of goods from A to B on a global scale. Their economic importance is indisputable, since the higher the annual traffic of goods and passengers, the more developed infrastructure and related services are needed. Which are the biggest / busiest ports?


Out of the 28 EU member states, 23 have commercial seaports. The Port of Hamburg is an important hub for goods trafficking since the 12th century. Container Termial Burchardkai was expanded in 2019 with two more tracks, and the number of container cranes increased from two to four – thanks to the investment it can handle 850 000 TEU yearly.

Other important ports in Europe: Rotterdam (Netherlands), Antwerp (Belgium), Le Havre (France), Trieste (Italy), Felixstowe (England), Algeciras and Valencia (Spain).


This large continent is home to the world’s largest and busiest seaports. Since 2010, the Port of Sanghai has the largest turnover of goods (42 million TEU in 2018). Managing 1/7 of the world’s total shipping container cargo, the Port of Singapore is also huge and has connections to around 120 ports in 600 countries. 

Other important ports in Asia: Laem Chabang (Thailand), Busan (South Korea), Hong Kong (China), Shenzhen (China), Tokyo (Japan), Port Klang (Malaysia).

North America

 North America’s largest port is located in Los Angeles and it covers 7,500 hectares and handles 20% of all cargo arriving in the US. If we consider the volume of foreign waterborne cargo, Houston Harbor is the busiest in America. The 32 km long port has more than 200 public and private terminals.

More significant ports in North America: Long Beach (California), New York and New Jersey (East Coast), Seattle-Tacoma (Washington).

South America

 146 million tonnes of cargo passes through the Port of Itagui of the Brazilian city of Sao Luis yearly. Over the past few years, the volume of containers has doubled and the number of tonnes handled has tripled. Since 2006, Port of Santos has been the busiest (and most modern) port in Latin America. Almost 50% of Brazil’s foreign trade is conducted here. Until World War II, coffee was the largest export. 

Other significant ports in South America: Columbus (Panama), Balboa (Panama), Cartagena (Colombia), Montevideo (Uruguay), Manzanillo (Mexico).


Nearly 1,000 ships use the South African Port of Durban every month, and thanks to continuous improvements, this number is growing every year. If you look at the number of containers, at the moment the Moroccan Tanger Med is considered the busiest port in Africa (3.4 million containers in 2018).

Other important ports in Africa: Richards Bay (KwaZulu-Natal), Mombasa (Kenya), Port Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Beira (Mozambique).


Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Australia is a country of paramount importance in terms of international maritime transport. Port Hedland is the largest container port in Australia and Oceania, it is responsible for handling approximately 452 million tons of cargo annually. In terms of size and turnover the Port of Botany (Sydney) comes third, which is one of the most beautiful natural ports in the world.

Other significant ports in Australia: Brisbane (Queensland), Fremantle (Western Australia), Port Melbourne (Victoria), Darvin (Northern Australia).

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