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Shanghai Surpasses Singapore as World’s Busiest Port

Shanghai shipping
Shipping containers are loaded at the Yangshan deep water port in Shanghai. Photographer: Kevin Lee/Bloomberg

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Shanghai surpassed Singapore in container traffic last year, making China’s wealthiest city the world’s busiest port as the country churns out more export goods and boosts trade volumes.

Traffic in 2010 rose to 29.05 million, 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, the Shanghai municipal government said in a media release on its website. That’s about 500,000 TEUs more than Singapore, the release said. Shanghai’s cargo volume was about 650 million metric tons last year, it said.

Shanghai’s emergence as the busiest port underscores the impact of China’s sustained economic growth on global trade patterns. The world’s second-largest economy expanded at an average 11.4 percent pace over the past five years, overtaking Germany in 2009 to become the largest exporter. China is also the most populous nation and world’s largest metals consumer.

“This is just one more illustration of the rising importance of the Chinese economy, which is already the world’s largest trading economy,” David Cohen, an economist at Action Economics Ltd. in Singapore, said by phone today. “Still, there’s more than enough business to go around for Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong as economies expand.”

Singapore’s Growth

Container traffic in Singapore, the Southeast Asian city-state located at the southern end of the Malacca Strait, rose 9.9 percent to 28.4 million TEUs in 2010, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said on Jan. 6. Shanghai’s 2009 volumes totaled 25 million TEUs, the port’s operator said previously.

The increase in Shanghai’s container traffic was driven by the growing domestic economy, the recovery in Europe and the U.S. and the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, the municipal government’s Jan. 5 statement said. China’s central government said in 2009 that it aimed to make Shanghai the world’s shipping center by 2020.

Worldwide trade was likely to expand 13.5 percent in 2010 as the global economy recovered from recession, the World Trade Organization forecast in September. That was higher than the group’s initial projection for an expansion of 10 percent.

China’s economy expanded at about 10 percent in 2010, according to an estimate by Vice Premier Li Keqiang, reported by Xinhua news agency yesterday. China “must continue to expand trade and investment with other countries to ensure further growth,” Li told business people in Spain, according to Xinhua.

Singapore became the world’s busiest container port in 2005 after predecessor Hong Kong lost out to cheaper harbors in southern China. As recently as 2001, Shanghai had moved fewer than half the containers handled by Singapore.

World Expo

Shanghai hosted the World Expo last year during the six months to Oct. 31. The $44 billion event attracted about 73 million visitors, according to its website, surpassing the 64 million people who attended the 1970 expo in Osaka, Japan.

The Shanghai government will press on with a trial of export-tax refunds, and may expand the exercise while improving infrastructure, including building a tunnel, to help improve the port’s road traffic, the media statement said.

Shanghai will develop shipping-price derivatives and study an index of the city’s marine transport, the statement said. The city will also lobby the central government to let luxury cruise agencies register in Shanghai, it said.

To contact Bloomberg News staff on this story: Alfred Cang in Shanghai at acang@bloomberg.net; Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim McDonald at jmcdonald8@bloomberg.net

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