Container traffic in the world’s ports grew 2%

Container traffic growth in the world’s ports slowed to 2% in 2019, up from 5.1% in 2018, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated.

In 2019, some 811.2 million TEUs were handled in container ports around the world, reflecting an additional 16.0 million TEUs compared to 2018.

Likewise, in 2019, almost 65% of container traffic in ports worldwide was concentrated in Asia; China’s share alone exceeded 50 percent.

Europe ranked second in terms of container handling volumes at ports, behind Asia, whose share was more than four times higher.

Container traffic

Other regions in descending order with respect to this indicator are North America (7.7%), Latin America and the Caribbean (6.5%), Africa (4%) and Oceania (1.6%).

World container port throughput by region, 2018–2019 (Million 20-foot equivalent units and annual percentage change)


It is estimated that less than 2% of global maritime trade in metric tons and 7% of containerized cargo will be subject to the new tariffs introduced by China and the United States between 2018 and 2019.

Additional tariffs are estimated to have slowed maritime trade by 0.5% in 2019, the overall impact of which was mitigated by substitution trends, that is, by exports and/or imports from alternative markets, and the extent to which the demand for goods is sensitive to increased tariff levels.

The search for alternative markets and suppliers resulted in a change in trade patterns and a redirection of flows from China to other markets, especially in Southeast Asia, thus promoting the deployment of smaller vessels in intra-Asian trade.


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