Top 5 Major UK Container Shipping Ports: A Guide

The UK shipping port industry handles around 95% of all the country’s import and exports, so you may be surprised to learn that there are only around 120 commercial ports currently operating in the country. Around 500 million tonnes of cargo pass through these ports every year and only around 20 of those ports account for the vast majority (around 88%) of this total. So, today we thought we’d honour the UK shipping industry by putting a spotlight on some of these ports and saluting everything they stand for and everything they do for us.

Port of London

The gateway to the financial capital of the UK, this was once the largest port of its kind in the world and alongside its enviable history it also boasts incredible rail and road links to the rest of the country. There was over 50 million tonnes worth of trade in 2018 and by 2035, it’s expected that there could be around 80 million annual tonnes flowing through the London port.

Port of Felixstowe

The largest port in the UK, Felixstowe deals with almost half (48%) of the container trade in the UK. Located on the south-east coast in the idyllic country of Suffolk, it’s the 8th busiest port in Europe thanks to its location allowing for easy access to many of the major ports on the west coast of continental Europe.

The port is the first in the country to be purpose-built for container ships and also boasts three rail lines. It is the only shipping port in the UK capable of accommodating 8 and 9 berth ships due to its original design as a container ship port.

Port of Southampton

Primarily used as a passenger port, with around 1.7 million passengers passing through it every year on their way to glamorous cruise holidays, the Port of Southampton is also home to the UK’s second-largest container terminal (behind Felixstowe).

The site also contains five separate multi-storey car parks (primarily for cruise passengers). Southampton port is also famous as the location from which the doomed Titanic set sail over a hundred years ago

Port of Immingham

Until recently, Immingham was the largest port in the UK. Now it’s only the second-largest (thanks to Felixstowe) but it still has the greatest capacity for storage, with space for 55 million tonnes of cargo every year.

The port, commonly known as “Immingham Docks,” is seen as the shipping port of greatest importance to the energy sector, with millions of tonnes worth of coal and oil passing through it every year. It also connects the Humber (known as the ‘energy estuary’) to the rest of the country.

Port of Liverpool

Famous as a tourist attraction in its own right thanks to the iconic buildings that line the waterfront and the massive vessels which often come into port, Liverpool is the most central of all the UK’s mega ports. This means it is perhaps the most diverse shipping port on our list when it comes to cargo. In addition, it’s also probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing ports not only in the UK but in the world and for visitors, it also contains the National Maritime Museum, which hosts hundreds of high-quality ship models and is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

The UK port industry is massive, employing over 118,000 people and generating billions in gross value every year for the UK economy. It’s also an industry that’s growing by the year and with more cargo ships on the water than ever before, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.