Container shipping: in numbers

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The transport of goods by ship has been around for centuries. The oldest boat ever discovered would be the Canoe Pesse found in the Netherlands, believed to have been built around 8,000 BCE. However, it is the Austronesian-speaking people who are considered the first true inhabitants of the ocean – 2,000 years before the Vikings.

The origins of container ships date back to 1955 when Malcolm P. McLean customized an oil tanker to transport his trucks. And today, most of the world’s goods are transported by sea.


  • The global shipping container industry was $8.7 billion in 2019. It should reach $12 billion by 2027.
  • On 95% worldwide freight is shipped.
  • the Breakdown of global maritime traffic is 52% container, 22% tanker, 20% general merchandise, and 6% dry bulk.
  • There are approximately 55,000 merchant ship who engage in international trade, including 15 106 general cargo ships, 12,258 bulk carriers, 7,350 tankers, 7,027 ro-ro passenger ships, 5,664 chemical tankers, 5,307 container ships, and 2,031 liquefied natural gas carriers.
  • Europe controls 39.5% of the commercial fleet in the world.
  • 80% of shipping containers worldwide come from just three manufacturers in China: CIMC, CXIC and DFIC.
  • Shipping containers typically last approximately 20 years.
  • Sea freight usually takes about one month from China to the United States


  • There are 835 active ports in the world.
  • In the United States alone, there are more than 360 commercial ports.
  • The port of Shanghai has the largest cargo volume in the world. It manages approximately 43.5 million TEUs containers.
  • The Port of Los Angeles has the largest cargo volume in the United States. It processes approx. 9.2 million TEUs containers.
  • The Port of Los Angeles is made up of 7,500 acres of land and extends over 43 miles of shore.
  • The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle approximately 40% to receive containers in the United States
  • On 1,000 people are employed by the Port of Los Angeles Department.


  • The largest freighter in the world is the Never haveWho set a new TEU record. Four football pitches long, it can hold more than 23,000 containers. It was built in 2021 for Evergreen Marine Corporation, a Taiwanese shipping company, and it sails under the Panamanian flag.
  • Over the past 20 years, the average size of container ships has double.
  • Shipping containers for cargo ships come in a variety of sizes, but these are the two most popular sizes: the TEU is 20 feet and FIRE is 40 feet.

Image Credit: EvrenKalinbacak /

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