The shipping industry has been achieving spectacular growth in container trade, along with the globalization process and large-scale adoption of the container. Worldwide containers throughput increased from 36 million in 1980 and 88 million in 1990 to about 535 million in 2008. Around 60% of the world’s port involves laden containers, about 15% are empty containers. The remainder consists of transshipped containers. Sea-sea transhipment shows the strongest growth: it has more than tripled in the last 15 years World container traffic, the absolute number of containers being carried by sea, has grown from 28.7 million TEU in 1990 to 152 million TEU in 2008- an average annual increase of 9.5%. The ratio of the container traffic over evolved from 3 in 1990 to around 3.5 in 2008; i.e., a container on average is handled (loaded or discharged) 3.5 times between the first port and the last port of discharge. The changing liner service networks are at the core of the rise in the average number of port handlings per box. Apart from the year 2009 when there was a decline in world container traffic of about 12% to 478 million TEU, the container shipping business has always witnessed moderate-to-strong year-on-year growth figures. The pace of growth even accelerated in the period 2002- 8, partly as a result of the “China effect” in the world economy. The absolute rise of container traffic is the result of the interplay of economic, policy-oriented and technological factors. World trade was facilitated through the mitigation of trade barriers and the introduction of market liberalization and deregulation. Market liberalization brought about a lot of development in logistics throughout the world. The centre of gravity of the container business is shifting to Asia. During the last twenty years, the transatlantic container trade has gradually lost its dominance to the transpacific and Europe-Far East trades, with large volumes moving from Asia to North America and Europe. The container ports in East Asia handled 19.8% of the global container throughput in 1980. In 2008, their share had increased to about 37%. Ports in Southeast Asia saw a steep rise in their joint market share, from 4.8% in 1980 to around 14% in 2008. In contrast, Western Europe saw its share fall from 30.3% (then the highest in the world) to about 18% in the same period. North America also witnessed its share declining, from 24.5% (then the second-highest in the world) to less than 10%. The dominance of Asia is well understood in the world container port rankings. In 2009 most of the container ports came from Asia, mainly from China. In the mid1980s there were only six Asian ports in the top twenty, mainly Japanese load centres. The best container ports represented 46% of the worlds container ports in 2009, the top five an elevated 21.3%. The share of gateway traffic in total container throughput tends to differ quite significantly between the gateway regions. Certain regions primarily function as a hub, not as a gateway, whereas the seaport system which is a true multi-port gateway region, gives access to vast service areas in the Delta. Moreover, some multi-port gateway regions feature a high density of port terminals in a small geographical space, while other regions cover larger areas with interpreting distances of up to 350km. The major container-handling region in the world until the early 1990s was in the Europian region. From that moment on Asia took over the leadership. One out of every ten containers handled worldwide is handled in ports of the Pearl River Delta. The joint cargo throughput of the ten port.
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