Shanghai Handles a Record 4.3 Million TEU in July

Shanghai port container record
Shanghai handled a record number of containers in July (SIPG photo)

Published Aug 4, 2022 1:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

The port of Shanghai is reporting that it set a new monthly record for the total number of containers moving through what is already recognized as the world’s busiest container port. The volume growth comes as the port recovered from the earlier COVID-19-related lockdowns and is part of a new surge in volume across many of China’s largest container ports.

The Shanghai International Port Group released a preliminary total for the Shanghai port complex saying it handled more than 4.3 million containers in July. This compares with a previous record of 4.2 million containers in October 2020. On average, the port handled 3.93 million boxes a month in 2021.

Seeking to give a sense of the magnitude of the volume Chinese media is highlighting that Shanghai handled 140,000 TEU each day in July. One of the primary ocean terminals, the Shengdong International Container Terminal, also reported a new monthly record of 840,000 TEU. The one terminal did volumes comparable to monthly volumes at many of the world’s ports and exceeded the annual volume of some ports.

July’s volume is reported to be 16 percent over July 2021 and 13 percent ahead of June. The port had been working in June to catch up after the lockdowns across much of the Shanghai region in May as well as restrictions on inter-city trucking. Port officials did not comment on how much of July’s volume was due to backlogs in the supply chain.

Likely reflecting the impact of the lockdowns and restrictions, year-to-date volume is reported to be only about one percent ahead of 2021. Shanghai has reportedly handled approximately 26.85 million TEU in 2022, which puts it at a rate similar to the port’s monthly average in 2021.

Shanghai has ranked as the world’s busiest container port for 12 years running since the government launched an effort in 2010 to expand the port operations and turn Shanghai into a regional hub. Port officials cited efforts at diversifying its business as well as integration of Shanghai’s operations with ports across the Yangtze River Delta region. Investments are currently focusing on technology and automation as well as diversified transport across the region. Efforts have recently been completed to strengthen both the inland waterways and rail network with the expansion of the intermodal hubs.

The China Ports & Harbor Association reports strong overall growth in port operations in 2022. They detailed growth at eight of the 10 largest coastal ports saying there had been a 26.8 percent surge in volumes in the last 10 days of July.

While Shanghai reported strong growth, the Ningbo-Zhoushan complex is growing at a faster rate and quickly catching up with Shanghai. Ningbo reported 23.6 percent year-over-year growth in July reaching about 3.87 million TEU.

Chinese officials echoed the comments of western economists saying they were concerned about the possibility of weaker external demand in the second half of 2022. They highlighted the interest rate increases and inflation in western countries saying it could contribute to slowing demand for Chinese exports.