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Gulf ports trump US in global efficiency rankings

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Saudi's King Abdullah Port gets global top spot in the list ranking how long container ships had to spend in ports to complete their workloads in 2021

Heavy investment has seen the Middle East dominate the top of the rankings of a list of the most efficient container ports in the world, with some Saudi ports up to four times more efficient than their North American rivals.

The latest edition of the Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), which was developed by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence, saw Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port take the top spot, while Port Salalah in Oman, Hamad Port in Qatar and Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi were also among the top five.

Further down, Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Islamic Port also ranked eighth place overall.

The list ranks how long container ships had to spend in ports to complete their workloads in 2021.

“Increasing the use of digital technology and green fuel alternatives are two ways countries can modernise their ports and make maritime supply chains more resilient,” said Martin Humphreys, lead transport economist at the World Bank and one of the researchers behind the index.

“Inefficient ports represent a significant risk for many developing countries in that they can hinder economic growth, harm employment, and increase costs for importers and exporters.

“In the Middle East, heavy investments in container port infrastructure and technology are proving to be effective.”

King Abdullah Port was achieving an average of 97 container moves per hour of vessel port time, compared with just 26 container moves per hour at some of the main ports in North America.

The highest ranked North American ports were the Port of Virginia in 23rd place, followed by Miami (29) and Halifax in Canada (46).

“The pandemic highlighted in stark terms the pivotal role port performance plays in the timely supply of goods to countries and their populations,” Turloch Mooney, associate director, maritime and trade at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said.

“The effects of the pandemic on key global gateways and associated supply chains are worrying.

“They continue to cause severe supply delays and shortages of goods, leading to higher prices and negatively impacting the financial situation of many companies.”

Last month King Abdullah Port also ranked second globally in terms of growth by Alphaliner, a maritime transport data analysis company. Overall, in terms of size, the port is also ranked 73rd in the world.

“As the kingdom’s newest port facility, establishing ourselves as a world-class trade and logistics hub that delivers long-term value, year on year, to our stakeholders is what has helped solidify our reputation both regionally and globally,” Jay New, CEO of King Abdullah Port, said.

King Abdullah Port raised its throughput from 2.15 million TEU [twenty-foot equivalent units] in 2020 to 2.81 million TEU last year. With a 30.6 percent volume growth, it is second only to the Mexican Port of Lazaro Cardenas.

The UAE has also seen ongoing investment in its ports. In February, Reuters reported that Abu Dhabi Ports Group, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ, was valued at AED16.3 billion ($4.4 billion) after Abu Dhabi’s IHC bought a 7.4 percent stake for AED1.2 billion ($326.7 million) through its subsidiary Al Seer Marine.

“The investment in Abu Dhabi Ports Group is crucial for improving the company’s competitiveness and revenue capacity performance,” Al Seer Marine’s CEO Guy Neivens said.