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airports cargo

Which Airports Move the Most Cargo?

From facilitating crucial international supply chains to ensuring the smooth delivery of personal Amazon packages, cargo shipping is an important part of the global economy.

Total air cargo shipped measured around 117 million metric tons in 2022.

This map uses data from Airports Council International (ACI) to showcase the global airports that move the most goods.

The Busiest Cargo Airports;  The world’s busiest airport in terms of cargo is Hong Kong’s, which has held the number one spot for almost 28 years.

Here’s a look at the ranking:

Rank Airport Location Cargo (Metric Tons)
#1 HKG 🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR 4,199,196
#2 MEM 🇺🇸 Memphis, USA 4,042,679
#3 ANC 🇺🇸 Anchorage, USA 3,461,603
#4 PVC 🇨🇳 Shanghai, China 3,117,216
#5 SDF 🇺🇸 Louisville, USA 3,067,234
#6 ICN 🇰🇷 Incheon, South Korea 2,945,855
#7 TPE 🇹🇼 Taipei, Taiwan 2,538,678
#8 MIA 🇺🇸 Miami, USA 2,499,837
#9 LAX 🇺🇸 Los Angeles, USA 2,489,854
#10 NRT 🇯🇵 Tokyo, Japan 2,399,298

Some of these busy airports are not well-known, and none of them, aside from LAX, rank as highly in terms of passenger traffic. For example, Anchorage ranks in the top 10 in cargo processed because it is cheaper for cargo carriers to stop over and refuel there, rather than flying nonstop from Asia to the United States.

The Memphis airport handles the most cargo in North America, largely because of FedEx’s significant presence there. FedEx processes over 245,000 documents and 180,000 packages an hour at Memphis’ airport.

On top of being home to UPS’ Worldport, the world’s biggest fully automated package processing facility, Louisville is also central to other transport routes in the United States. Packages come into this hub and then head out on the many highways and railways, as well as the Ohio River, which connects to the Mississippi River, one of the country’s main waterways for barge transit.

Cargo Shipment

Nearly every airport has seen significant increases in the amount of cargo moved year-over-year, with numbers now rising above pre-pandemic benchmarks. Notably, however, Shanghai and Hong Kong have experienced decreases due to geopolitical tensions.

In Hong Kong, goods movement via air travel is integral to the economy. Around half of the entire region’s external trade went through the airport in 2022.

Cargo transit is inherently important to the global economy. Around $6 trillion worth of goods move through airports annually, representing approximately 35% of world trade.

Seaport Trade 2021

Visualized: Seaport Trade Traffic by Country

According to the World Bank, global seaport trade traffic reached 841 million TEUs (20-foot container equivalent units) in 2021.

In this infographic, Winifred Amase uses that data to highlight the countries with the highest seaport trade traffic.

China Leads All Seaport Trade Traffic

With a third of the world’s total seaport trade traffic surrounding its many ports, it’s no surprise to see China on top of the list.

In addition to owning seven of the world’s 10 busiest ports, the country also owns close to 100 ports across 63 other countries. This brought the country’s container traffic up to 263 million TEUs in 2021.

Country 20-Foot Container Count (2021)
 China 263M
 United States 61M
 Singapore 37M
 South Korea 30M
 Malaysia 28M
 Japan 22M
 India 20M
 United Arab Emirates 19M
 Vietnam 18M
 Hong Kong SAR, China 18M

In second place is the United States, which saw container traffic of 61 million TEUs. Massive U.S. ports in Los Angeles and New York are some of the busiest ports on the continent.

Asian countries dominated the rest of the top 10 list, taking up seven of the remaining eight spots.

Singapore came in third with 37 million 20-foot container units passing through in 2021. The port handled 599 million tonnes of freight, making it the busiest single port in total shipping tonnage.

The ports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi make the United Arab Emirates a key player in Middle Eastern trade. With a container traffic of 19 million TEUs, the UAE is seventh on the list of nations with the highest seaport traffic in 2021.

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