Shanghai in 70 Yrs – The Biggest Port in China


When China began a three-year period of economic recovery and consolidation in 1949,local governmentstook over the running of the nation’s ports. They were placed underdirect state ownership and managementin the first five-year plan which ran from 1953 to 1957.

The majority of the goods coming through the port at that time were coal and building materials, which were loaded and unloaded entirely byhand. The city’s cargo capacity was around1.5 million tonsa year in the early 1950s, thelargestof any port in China.

Docks and ports of old Shanghai

A major boost to trade came in the 1970s when China began re-establishing relations with a variety of nations including two major economies –Japan and the United States.

Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China

Between 1973 and 1978, Shanghai built 24 new shipping berths, as well as renovating older ones.

In the 1980s came the country’s reform and opening-up … and a resulting explosion in trade volume … which overwhelmed the existing ports.

Shanghai declared”clearing the ports”to be a government priority, and began introducing shipping containers and the equipment to handle them.


Shou Xizhen saw it all. She worked at the state-owned Shanghai Dashing Travelling Goods Corporation throughout the 1950s.

Now 83, she recalls a time when most cargos were headed to ports relatively close by, usuallyHong Kong or Singapore, and a few routes to Europe. The growth was robust.

Shou Xizhen

After she retired in the late 1990s, her son, Wu Xin, took over and now is the general manager at the trade company.

He says before shipping containers came along, he used to have to drop off and collect client’s cargos himself at warehouses along the Huangpu River.


From a freight system where everything was loaded by hand, to a containerized one dominated by mechanical loading,port modernizationbecame a major focus of the city government in the 1990s.

Mao Boke, counselor at the Shanghai Transport & Port Research Center, says that back then, there werethree decisive stepsmade by the authorities.

Mao Boke

First the focus of port construction was movedfrom the Huangpu River to the Yangtze River.

Second, the function of domestic ports was upgraded from coal, passengers and containers tofocus entirely on containers,which largely removed the need for manual laborers.

And third, the city announced plans to establish itself as aninternational shipping center. Into the 21st century, we’re looking even further afield to the East China Sea, and the Yangshan Deep Water Port. The harbors can handle bigger ships carrying10,000 to 18,000 containers.


Shanghai International Port Grouphas primary responsibility for the city’s upgraded docks and ports.

Founded in 1988, SIPG built and expanded the Yangshan Deep Water Port between 2002 and 2008. The conglomorate began the installation of smart port equipment at Yangshan in 2014.

SIPG says Shanghai’s container throughput for 2018 was over40 million units. That’s a worldwide record for the ninth straight year, and Yangshan accounted for some44%of it.


Yangshan and Waigaoqiao are currently the most used ports in Shanghai, withYangshan accommodating deep-sea routes and Waigaoqiao taking care of smaller shipping lines.

And the 4th phase project of Yangshan Port is running on the world’s firstfully remote control port system, which frees crane operators from the small and exhausting truck cabs, and eases their work intensity.

Yangshan Deep Water Port

Comments for this post are closed.