Increasing capacity

A new berth at Ningbo-Zhoushan supports its uptick in box handling capacity

Image: Ningbo-Zhoushan’s throughput figures continue to rise. Image:

China’s east coast is home to some supersized container ports. The biggest, Shanghai, is the world’s largest port overall and handled just over 47 million TEU in 2021, while Shenzhen, 1,579 km south if traveling by sea, handled nearly 29 million TEU in the same year.

In between the two ports and 300 km south of Shanghai sits the deepwater port of  Ningbo-Zhoushan, now China’s second busiest container port, which last year handled more than 31 million TEU, an uptick of 8.2% on the previous year. Most of these teu – 29.373 million TEU to be exact – were handled at the port’s Ningbo site. It has also been reported as the world’s busiest port by total cargo tonnage handled, and in the same year handled 1.22 trillion tonnes, representing a 4.4% lift on the year before, revealed Chinese government figures.

Located in the Yangtze River Delta economic region, Ningbo-Zhoushan is a combination of several ports including the river port of Ningbo, and its throughput figures continue to rise. 

According to media reports in April, volumes reached 3 million TEU and 3.3 million teu the following month, due in part to its increase in productivity when Shanghai locked down due to the pandemic which led vessels to reroute to Ningbo-Zhoushan. The Maritime Executive wrote that “Shanghai, by comparison, which normally handles nearly four million TEU a month, had a throughput of just over 3.4 million TEU in May due to the COVID restrictions”.

Ningbo port TEU capacity
Containerships on the East China Sea off the coasts of Ningbo port, Zhoushan, and Shanghai

The port is well-connected making it a viable alternative for many cargoes and shipping companies. According to Seatrade Maritime News, Ningbo-Zhoushan was connected by 287 shipping services at the end of 2021, “with 27 newly added comparing with the number at the end of 2020”. Of these routes, 117 service China’s global infrastructure development strategy – the Belt and Road Initiative.

It is not stopping there, however. Ningbo-Zhoushan already has plans underway to further grow its handling figures, and therefore expand its terminal facilities. 

According to a 2020 statement from the Chinese government, expansion projects planned or now since completed facilities include:

  • Beilun Port Zone Multipurpose Terminal Renovation Container Terminal Project
  • Guanshan Port Zone 1# Container Terminal Project
  • Guanshan Port Zone Zhongzhai Ore Terminal Project, Phase II (see below)
  • Jintang Port Zone Dapukou Container Terminal Project, which includes five new container berths
  • Meishan Bonded Port Zone (number nine – number ten) Container Berth Project

Recent reports this month suggest that berth number nine as part of the Meishan project, designed to accommodate 150,000-tonne box ships, will soon come online.

Seatrade Maritime News wrote earlier this month that the new container berth will time alongside for domestic vessels and will eventually be used to handle international ships.

Further information can be found about the Meishan container terminal through the MarineTraffic recently introduced Terminal Details pages. The new feature reveals that containerships are by far the most frequent vessel type to call at the Meishan terminal and represent 71% of calls. Other vessel types to call are cargo vessels (14%), tankers (9%), and hazard C (minor hazard) tankers (1%). It also shows the longest vessel recorded to call at Meishan port is 400 m, with the maximum draught being 25.2 m and deadweight, 198,886 tons.

The data shows that at time of writing, five vessels had docked at the terminal within the 24 hours prior, 59 vessels in a 24-hour period, and that the average turnaround time is 0.7 days.

Detailed overview - MarineTraffic Terminals Details pages
Detailed overview – MarineTraffic Terminals Details pages

Ningbo-Zhoushan is not only concerned with container shipping. A Chinese government statement on 16 June reveals that a new ore transfer terminal has been completed within the port area. Zhongzhai Ore Terminal in Chuanshan Port boasts a 300,000-tonne unloading berth, and one 50,000-tonne and one 35,000-tonne loading berth, which combined span 813 m of coastline. It is the largest ore transfer terminal in the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port area.

Work on the terminal, which has an annual throughput of 20 million tons, began in April 2018. “The project also includes a new approach bridge, two storage yards, and such supporting production auxiliary facilities as corridor transfer stations, roads and tunnels,” said the statement.

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