The Port of Tianjin (formerly known as the Port of Tanggu) is the largest port in Northern China and the center of maritime transport for the city of Beijing. While the port has been in existence since 206 BC, it officially opened to world trade in 1860, making it one of the oldest ports in China. The current port was originally built in 1939 and it has undergone multiple expansions since then. It is located on the western shore of Bohai Bay, which is at a center point of an estuary of the Haihe River. This port holds the distinction of being the largest manmade port in China; by the end of 2010 it covered over 46 square miles.
The average depth of Bohai Bay is 18 meters, and it is the drainage point for the Yellow River and the Haihe River. The shallow depth and poor outflow to the Yellow Sea results in high levels of silt and pollution.
The port is divided into four main “areas”. The northern portion is used primarily for shipping containers while Tianjin South Port is primarily used for bulk and liquid cargo. The western portion, known as the Haihe River Port, is designated for cargo vessels below 5000 tons. An international cruise terminal is slated to be built at Tianjin Port East.
The port has 140 berths, of which over half are managed and operated by Tianjin Port Holdings Company. Its major exports and imports are coal with specialized berths dedicated to its handling, giving it the capacity for 89 million tons of coal throughputs every year. The Port of Tianjin Coal Terminal Company has a 3,000 square meter yard with the ability to store over 1.7 million tons of coal. Besides coal, the port is also known for its high capacity for container shipping. The port’s container yard can hold up to 8.3 million tons of containerized cargo at a time. In addition, the bulk cargo yard can hold up to 5.1 million tons.
From 2006 to 2010, the port invested over 45 billion yuan to expand functions and services. This expansion included the construction of crude oil terminals, additional coal terminals, and an expanded grocery terminal. The new construction created a crude oil terminal that can accommodate 440 ton tankers along a 484 meter pier, an ore terminal with a 440 meter berth capable of handling 23 million tons of cargo a year, and a new coal terminal that includes 900 meters of quays.
In 2010, the Port of Tianjin handled over 413 million tons of cargo and 10.2 million TEU containers. This made it the fourth largest port by tonnage on the planet, but the third largest port in China. The port trades with over 400 other ports around the world located in 180 different countries. Currently, the port is undergoing another expansion, with an expected capacity of 600 Mt by the end of 2015.
On Wednesday, August 12th, 2015, two explosions occurred at a container storage station in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin. The resulting fires continued to burn throughout the weekend and caused numerous secondary explosions, 8 on Saturday alone. The Chinese state media reported that the inital blast was from unknown hazardous materials in shipping containers at a warehouse owned by Ruihai Logistics, who specialized in handling these materials. The final casualty report was 173 dead, 8 missing, and 797 injuries.