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 100 million metric tons in 1980 to about 1.7 billion metric tons in 2015, vessels have likewise increased their capacity. Between 1980 and 2016, the deadweight tonnage of container ships has grown from about 11 million metric tons to around 244 million metric tons. As of July 2016, the global cellular container ship fleet had the capacity to carry some 20 million standard containers. With a total capacity of around 3.3 million TEUs*, Danish shipping line APM-Maersk is currently the largest container-shipping company globally, followed by MSC, CMA, COSCO and Hapag-Lloyd. Germany's Hapag-Lloyd went public in 2015, although the industry is faced with many challenges such as low freight rates; South Korea's Hanjin was forced into bankruptcy in 2016 and Maersk acquired Germany's Hamburg Süd in 2017.


In 2016, the five leading container-handling ports worldwide were Asia-based. The port of Shanghai was the busiest container port in the world, handling about 37 million TEUs of containerized cargo. In its 2016 fiscal year, the port of Los Angeles handled some 8.4 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.

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Container shipping - Important statistics

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