New report ranks world’s leading shipping centres

Singapore tops the list of global shipping centres according to a report by the London headquartered shipping exchange the Baltic Exchange and Xinhua, the Chinese news agency. The Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index assesses and ranks the quality, breadth and depth of 43 locations’ port and wider business services.

Ranking 2018
1 Singapore
2 Hong Kong
3 London
4 Shanghai
5 Dubai
6 Rotterdam
7 Hamburg
8 New York
9 Tokyo
10 Busan


So what makes Singapore special? The Lion City, which is also home to the recently opened MarineTraffic Asia office, is both a successful port with a large and fast-growing maritime business cluster. The rankings take into consideration the volume of cargoes moved through the ports; draught and number of cranes; the size of the city’s finance, legal, broking, engineering and repair services as well as the general business environment – this covers everything from the ease of doing business through to government transparency.

In 2017 Singapore handled around 233m tonnes of liquid bulk (oils and chemicals), more than any other port and its throughput of 33.6 million TEU of containers ranks it as the world’s second busiest container port, behind Shanghai. Analysis of the ship arrival data in Singapore shows that 145,147 vessels called at Singapore in 2017, up 4% on the previous year. Its strategic location means that it is the most popular ship fuelling hub in the world, with demand climbing to another record high in 2017, gaining 4.2% from the previous year to 50.6 million mt of bunker fuel sold. According to the report’s authors, Singapore will also benefit from the strategic opportunities brought about by China’s “Belt and Road” initiative (BRI), intermediating capital and trade flows linked to BRI.

Port of Singapore vessel arrivals 2017


Containers Freighters Bulk Carriers Tankers Passengers Barges Tugs Misc
17,663 7,427 16,011 24,411 45,329 9,217 10,887 14,202


Singapore’s success is all the more incredible when you consider that in 1965 when the city state gained its independence from the UK, Singapore was a low-income country, lacking infrastructure and natural resources. Thanks to a business-friendly forward-looking approach to public policy by its government and close private-public partnerships, Singapore is a superbly connected location and hugely attractive to the maritime industry.  Singapore not only focuses on ships, cargo, port facilities and infrastructure, but it also works hand in hand with maritime shore-based businesses helping them to develop and expand through tax breaks and programmes aimed at building knowledge.

But Singapore is not the only successful maritime cluster. The Asia-Pacific region now makes up 50% of the top 10, with three of those centres making up the top four.

Other highlights of the Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index show that Hong Kong overtook London – for the first time in five years – to take second place, although London is still assessed to be the top professional maritime services location.  

Shanghai moved up to fourth place thanks to its rapidly developing modern shipping logistics and shipping services systems, in addition to the coordinated development of its regional shipping counterparts. Tokyo held ninth position, while Busan returned to the top ten, replacing Athens, by virtue of its strategy of vigorously developing its transhipment ports.

The impact of the overall weak economy in the European region meant London’s overall development was behind that of Hong Kong, while Hamburg dropped to seventh. Better news in the European region came from Rotterdam who jumped two places to sixth in the overall rankings due to improved operating efficiency, with new technology applications such as the internet of things, big data, and artificial intelligence, as well as smart port construction.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Baltic Exchange CEO, Mark Jackson, said:

“This report underlines the constant competition and innovation taking place in cities around the world to attract maritime related businesses. Location is an important ingredient for success in the shipping industry and plays an important part in meeting the latest challenges. The right location gives companies access to clients, the best employees and is a platform for long-term business success.”

Elsewhere, Dubai maintained fifth in the rankings, driven by its innovative free-trade zone and improvement in trade environment, while New York dropped from seventh to eighth.  

Bill Lines
Bill is a director of London based maritime public relations firm Navigate PR and has been working with MarineTraffic since 2013.