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Container Shipping - Statistics & Facts

In terms of value, global seaborne container trade is believed to account for approximately 60 percent of all world seaborne trade, which was valued at around 12 trillion U.S. dollars in 2017. While the quantity of goods carried by containers has risen from around 102 million metric tons in 1980 to about 1.83 billion metric tons in 2017, vessels have likewise increased their capacity. Between 1980 and 2019, the deadweight tonnage of container ships has grown from about 11 million metric tons to around 266 million metric tons. With a total capacity of around four million TEUs*, Danish shipping line APM-Maersk is currently the largest container-shipping company globally, followed by MSC, COSCO, CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd. On January 1, 2020, the IMO 2020 regulation on sulfur emissions came into force, allowing the content of sulfur in fuel oil to be at most 0.5 percent, down from 3.5 percent applied since 2012. The revised limits are set to bring disruption and new challenges to the shipping industry, on top of the ones introduced by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In 2018, the leading container-handling ports worldwide were Asia-based. The port of Shanghai was the busiest container port in the world, handling about 42 million TEUs of containerized cargo in 2018. In its 2019 fiscal year, the Port of Los Angeles handled almost 9.7 million TEUs, making it the largest container port in the United States.

* The abbreviation TEU stands for twenty-foot equivalent unit, a standard unit of measure in the shipping industry.

Interesting statistics

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Statistics on the topic
Container shipping worldwide

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Important key figures

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Global container fleet

Ports

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