The scale and growth of China’s domestic over-the-road trucking and international ocean container shipping trade has been revealed in new data from the country’s Ministry of Transport.
Last year the country shipped 249.8 million twenty-foot equivalent shipping units (TEUs), which was a 5.3 percent increase on the previous year. The total weight of the cargo in metric tons (a metric ton is equivalent to 2,204.6 U.S. pounds) was 2.43 billion tons.
Over-the-road trucking figures are also enormous. Last year China transported 39.57 billion tons of cargo inside the country, which is an increase of 7.3 percent over 2017. For those interested in truly gigantic numbers, it’s time to consider China’s ton-kilometer data. A “ton-kilometer” is a ton of cargo shipped one kilometer (one kilometer is 0.62 miles). In 2018 China racked up 7.12 trillion ton-kilometers of freight transport, which was up 6.7 percent on the previous year.
The weight of containerized freight is going up too. In 2018, the total national weight of containerized cargo in China stood at 2.43 billion tons, which is a 5.8 percent increase over 2017.
The mighty port of Shanghai handled the single largest volume of containers – 42.01 million TEU handled last year, which represents growth of 4.4 percent compared to 2017. That was followed in a far distant second place by the complex at Ningbo-Zhoushan, which handled 26.35 million TEU. In third place was Shenzhen, which handled 25.74 million TEU.
By way of comparison, the single largest port in the U.S. is the Port of Long Beach, which handled just under 8.1 million TEU in 2018. The immediately adjacent Port of Los Angeles handled 9.46 million TEU in the same year, a combined total of about 17.56 million TEU for the year. That aggregate total would see a ‘super-port’ of Los Angeles take the sixth spot on the China list, nestled between the 19.3 million TEU port at Qingdao and the 16 million TEU port at Tianjin (which is the gateway to the capital, Beijing).
Shanghai also handled the greatest weight of cargo in 2018 with 330.8 million tons of freight, up 3.2 percent on the previous year. The southern port of Guangzhou (about 70 miles northwest of Hong Kong) was second with 279.96 million tons of cargo, a massive increase of 9.1 percent over 2017. The combined complex of Ningbo-Zhoushan took third pace with 207.82 million tons, an increase of 5.2 percent on the year before.
Turning to over-the-road trucking, China reports on both the volume of freight shipped inland to its provinces and also the ton-kilometers to get the freight there. For the purposes of context, Chinese provinces may be thought of as a bit like U.S. states. The two largest freight volumes were Shandong province (3.13 billion tons) in the north and Guangdong province (3.05 billion tons) in the south.
This may be expected as these are both coastal provinces and are home to the larger Chinese ports. The third-ranked province is Anhui with 2.84 billion tons of freight. Anhui is immediately behind the city of Shanghai. With 62 million people, it is a highly populous province and it is home to large areas of industry and manufacturing.
On the ton-kilometer side, the province of Hebei saw the most trucking movements with 855 billion ton-kilometers of freight transport. Road freight transport is increasing quickly, with 8.2 percent growth compared to 2017. Hebei is a central province and immediately to the south of the capital, Beijing. It has a population of about 75 million and is a center for agriculture and primary industries.
In a somewhat distant second place is the northerly province of Shandong with 685.97 billion ton-kilometers of freight. Shandong province is home to the major ports of Qingdao (19.3 million TEU) and the smaller ports of Rizhao (4.02 million TEU), and Yantai (3.00 million TEU). Shandong’s road freight is growing, albeit more slowly than in Hebei,with a 3.1 percent increase compared to 2017.
And, finally, in the third place, is another central area, Henan Province with 589.39 billion ton-kilometers. It has a population of about 93 to 94 million people, with a semi-industrialized economy. It is also a heavy producer of agricultural products. Henan’s road freight is growing at a ferocious rate – the province’s road freight ton-kilometers experienced 10.3 percent growth in 2018 compared to the year before.
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