How Do I Use The Seaport Code Finder?
This locator is more useful than looking up a world ports list. Using the locator is as easy as using Google Maps. Both seaports and airports are included. Search by port name, seaport code, or city and immediately be taken to the seaport on the map. Clicking on the port will display specific information like port code, region, latitude/longitude position, and other key points.
Looking to identify more ports in a specific area? Zoom in on a region or search for a specific city, state, or country to find their local seaports (anchor icon) and airports (the airplane icon) If you’ve already chosen ocean freight or air freight, you can narrow the search by unchecking ‘Seaports’ or ‘Airports’ on the top right of the map.
Click here if you would prefer to focus more on airports and their codes.
What Are Seaport Codes?
Any location used in international trade and transport, including seaports, airports, and other inland destinations, is assigned with a code.
This structure is used by most major shipping companies and freight forwarders and is seen throughout the manufacturing industry and trade-related activities. These codes pop up on bills of lading, invoices, and contracts to make sure that all parties in the supply chain are on the same page.
How Are International Port Codes Assigned?
Much like with Harmonized Schedule codes, the UN plays a critical role in standardization. In 1981, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), in collaboration with other major trade and transport organizations, initiated a framework to facilitate global trade. This evolved into what’s today known as LOCODE – Code for Trade and Transport Locations. The database is still maintained by the UNECE, and currently includes over 103,030 locations in 249 countries.
- Country: These are standard country codes as assigned by the International Organization of Standardization. In the above example, the country, “China”, is specified with a “CN.”
- Port / Airport Identifier: These characters represent a location within the designated country. The above example identifies “Shenyang.” In countries such as the United States, where the number of possible three-letter combinations has been exceeded, numerical digits are used.
What’s The Difference Between Major And Minor Ports?
Knowing where the largest ports in the world are located enables more time – and cost -efficient shipping. For example, depending on your location and the type and size of cargo you’re shipping, you might need access to railroads and highways, customs facilities, or cargo-handling equipment that a smaller regional port doesn’t offer. Additionally, freight has been trending towards larger vessels, as the ability to hold more cargo usually means lower prices to carry that cargo. Such carriers require larger ports, and in fact, often bypass smaller ports because of congestion and delays in container handling.
However, while bigger ports are necessary for certain shipping needs, there are multiple advantages to small and medium-sized ports, as well:
- Smaller ports usually have close connections with their local city, which can mean easier access and other logistical advantages.
- Several smaller ports have adapted to some of the market challenges mentioned above by focusing on niche areas or goods, offering a competitive edge.
- The busiest ports in the world are usually ranked by cargo tonnage and volume of container shipment. However, while some local ports may rank low globally, they can, in fact, have significant scale and capacity when compared regionally.
What Are The Different Types Of Ports?
While the term ‘seaport’ encompasses most facilities handling ocean-voyage vessels, there are several types that are worth understanding. An inland port is located on a lake, river, or canal with access to the ocean, allowing ships to unload cargo closer to an inland destination. A dry port is an inland facility directly connected to a seaport by road or rail. A warm-water port is one where the water doesn’t freeze in wintertime, making them available all year round.
Seaports can be broken down into two primary functions: cruise ports, for commercial passengers, and cargo ports. Cargo ports can then be further categorized as bulk or break bulk ports, which handle goods that need to be loaded in bulk or individually, and container ports, which handle any goods that need to be shipped in a container. Most cargo ports can handle all types of cargo, but it’s worth ensuring that you’re not dealing with a port that has specific regulations about what they can bring in.
For more on key freight terms, check out our Freight Term Glossary.
When Will I Need An Airport, And When Will I Need A Seaport?
Both air freight and ocean freight have their pros and cons.
- While air freight is faster and more reliable than ocean freight, it’s also more expensive (for shipments over about 500 kgs) and offers significantly less capacity for goods than cargo ships.
- Ocean freight is more subject to delays, for instance, bad weather and port congestion.
- More products are restricted as hazardous cargo on airplanes than container ships.
- Sea lanes can face pirate threats and airplanes might confront engine failure, though the chance of either occurring is exceedingly rare.
- CO2 emissions are much higher in air freight.
Ultimately, deciding which one suits your shipping needs more will depend on personal requirements. What is your budget? How many goods are you shipping? How quickly does your shipment need to arrive?
Port location might also play a part in your decision, as the accessibility of the departure and destination ports will impact your freight costs. If there’s no nearby airport but there is a local harbor that handles cargo, you might reconsider your shipping route.
Click here for more information on ocean freight.
What Are The 10 Largest Seaports In The World?
The busiest seaports in the world according to volume of cargo handled are:
- Shanghai, China; 33.62 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit)
- Singapore; 32.63 million TEUs
- Shenzhen, China; 23.28 million TEUS
- Hong Kong, S.A.R., China; 22.35 million TEUs
- Busan, South Korea; 17.69 million TEUs
- Ningbo-Zhousan, China; 17.33 million TEUs
- Qindao, China; 15.52 million TEUs
- Guangzhou Harbor, China; 15.31 million TEUs
- Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 13.64 million TEUs
- Tianjin, China; 13.01 million TEUs