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August 25, 2022

IMF’s Top 10 Sea Trading Countries

Sea trading has been around for millennia but only a select few countries have emerged as experts. At least the IMF feels so after tapping into data that analyzed hundreds of seaports. Identifying a select group of 10 countries, the IMF has noted in a March 2022 report that these countries are responsible for processing half of the world’s seaborne trade.

Trade through the maritime mode is one of the most ancient forms to transport goods, predating faster and modern modes such as aviation, trucks, and trains.

According to the IMF, the top 30 ports cornered more than half of the total ship capacity, while the top 100 ports managed beyond 75 per cent

The World Bank has noted that a country’s access to world markets depends on its transport connectivity, especially regular shipping services for the import and export of manufactured goods.

Let us delve further to gain more insights into the strengths of this select club of top sea-trading countries.

China

In the order of IMF’s classification as highlighted in its report, China is the world’s top sea-trading nation. Following decades of robust economic growth and prioritization accorded by its government, the country has asserted and positioned itself as the top global maritime trade power. 

Chinese ports played a key role in catapulting the Asian powerhouse’s economy onto the world stage with skyrocketing exports. 

According to the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI), which appraises how well a country is linked to the global shipping networks, China has consistently secured the top rank over the past several years. In Q2, 2022, China topped LSCI with an impressive score of 172.3

Computed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), LSCI rates a country’s maritime transport sector under the five components of number of ships, their container carrying capacity, maximum vessel size, number of services, and number of companies that deploy container ships in a country’s ports. 

As per the World Shipping Council’s statistics, China’s Shanghai port topped the list of 50 top container ports, processing 43.5 million TEU in 2020.

South Korea

After China, the IMF categorized South Korea as the next major sea trading country in the world. Living up to this billing, South Korea has consistently scored over 100 on the LSCI index for the past five years.

Besides this impressive performance, Korea is a giant shipbuilder in the world. Almost a year ago, South Korea set an ambitious goal to achieve global dominance in shipbuilding, targeting 75 per cent market share for building eco-friendly vessels by 2030.

Among the top 50 container ports list in the world, Korean port Busan (21.59 million) is one of them. 

Malaysia

As a key sea trader country bordering the Straits of Malacca, IMF has rated Malaysia as the third top sea trader country. The Southeast Asian country is home to Port Klang and Tanjung Pelepas, both ports found a place in the World Shipping Council’s list of top 50 container ports.  

As 98 per cent of Malaysian trade is carried by sea, maritime transport is of utmost importance to the country. Besides these strengths, Malaysia is a major facilitator of intra-regional and global trade with its shipping routes, including hosting various operations such as transportation, tourism, shipbuilding and repair, and others. 

USA

The United States of America, is also a mega sea-trading country, occupying the fourth position among IMF’s top 10 sea trader countries. 

American ports at Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York – New Jersey, and Savannah found places in the list of the World Shipping Council’s top 50 container ports. 

Besides these rankings and metrics, the US played host to the biggest contribution in the history of the shipping industry by giving birth to the shipping containerization invention through Malcolm Mclean, which went on to revolutionize and speed up the shipping industry forever.

UK 

The IMF has identified the United Kingdom as the fifth top sea trader country. In the latest LSCI appraisal, the UK scored 89.1 upholding a consistent performance on the index with scores above 80 over the years, demonstrating its maritime trade prowess. 

The UK’s London Gateway port is one of the top 10 ports which consistently improved its LSCI performance between 2006 and 2019.

Netherlands

The Netherlands is home to some of the most efficient seaports in the world, which offer an unparalleled gateway to continental Europe. Nearly 1 million logistics specialists working in the maritime industry comprise 10 per cent of the country’s workforce.

According to the IMF, the Netherlands is the sixth top sea trader country in the world. It scored 89.4 in the latest LSCI for Q2, 2022, with an already existing excellent track record on the index.

Germany

As the seventh top sea-trading country, according to the IMF, Germany holds a consistent record of 80 plus scores on the LSCI, with the latest score standing at 84.2

German ports at Hamburg and Bremen/Bremerhaven featured in the list of World Shipping Council’s top 50 container ports list while the European export powerhouse’s Hapag – Lloyd shipping line is a world-renowned carrier. 

Germany’s Wilhelmshaven port is one of the top 10 ports which consistently improved its LSCI performance between 2006 and 2019. 

Belgium 

As a major seafaring country lying by the North Sea and the English Channel, the IMF has recognized Belgium as the eighth top sea-trading country. 

Belgium boasts an LSCI score of 86.7 in Q2, 2022 with similar consistent performances in the past several years, including emerging in 2019 as the seventh best-connected economy as per the same index.

The Belgian port of Antwerp has found a place in the World Shipping Council’s list of top 50 container ports. 

Taiwan 

Taiwan may not be a large country in terms of geographical area but when it comes to maritime trade, the island is a major force to reckon with. The IMF has categorized Taiwan as the ninth top sea trader country which is famous for its semiconductors, a key component of modern advanced manufacturing. 

In the Liner Shipping Container Index appraisal for Q2, 2022, the country logged a score of 83.4, which is backed up by consistently impressive scores over the years.  

UAE

The United Arab Emirates completes the list of IMF’s top 10 sea trader countries by emerging as the 10th top sea-trading country. As one of the best-connected Asian countries, the UAE is also important as a re-export market, shipping products onward to North Africa and other countries in the region.

Renowned for its role in the global oil market, the UAE is home to Khalifa port, one of the top 10 ports which consistently improved its LSCI performance between 2006 and 2019. The UAE’s Jebel Ali port is one of the World Shipping Council’s top 50 container shipping ports. 

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Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Customer success manager
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