Busiest Cargo Ports in South America

The port of Santos moves 119 million tons of cargo annually.
The port of Santos moves 119 million tons of cargo annually.

The economies of the South American countries are heavily dependent on global trade which is well facilitated through the numerous cargo ports of these countries. With an increase in globalization and technological advancement, import and export volumes have also increased proportionately. Compared to the last century, the trade volume of South America has increased by over 50 percent vis-a-vis the global GDP. Trade in terms of import and export has become extremely significant especially with the growing consumer power and industrialization.

The Busiest Ports in South America


The port of Itaqui is the largest and busiest port in Brazil. It is located near the city of Sao Luis, in Maranhao. The port handles an annual cargo volume of 146 million tons. Various import and export commodities such as copper, aluminum ingot and bars, soybean, pig iron, dry and liquid cargos and general cargo are discharged or loaded in the port.


The Brazilian port of Tubarao is the second busiest port in Brazil as well as the continent. The port is situated near the city of Vitoria. The port specializes in the export of iron ore extracted from the nearby mines in Minas Gerais. Other supplies such as soybean and grain are also traded. The port of Tubarao is the largest iron ore embarking port in the world handling 80 million tons per year.


The port of Santos has for long remained the busiest and the largest port in Brazil until recently when Itaqui took the top spot. It is situated in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, 70 miles from the industrial city. It takes the top spot in terms of logistics capacity. The main cargo in the port of Santos is fertilizers. It is an important outlet for the export of Brazilian oil. The port moves 119 million tons of cargo annually and about 1.6 million TEUs.


The port of Callao, known officially as El Callao, is the biggest and busiest port in Peru. The seaport is located 15km west of the capital city of Lima. It is part of the larger Lima metropolitan. It is the busiest port in South America not located in Brazil. The port facilitates 43 million tons of cargo per year.


The port of Cartegena is Colombia’s busiest port. It is located on the northern shores of Colombia near the Caribbean. The seaport serves as the main oil port, as well as an important export terminal for coffee and platinum. Other products such as fertilizers, textiles, cosmetics, and leather goods are traded here. Handling more than one hundred vessels per day, the port of Cartegena is the ninth busiest port on the continent. More than 2.3 million TEUs are shipped annually accounting for 33 million tons of cargo volume.

San Lorenzo-San Martin

The port of San Lorenzo-San Martin is Argentina’s busiest port and among the largest on the continent. It comprises of several port facilities located on the western shores of the Parana River. It is a major port for agricultural exports and comprises about 50% of Argentina’s maritime traffic. The port handles up to 32 million tons of cargo volume per year.

Significant Role of the Ports of South America

The economy of the continent is driven by trade between neighboring countries and the rest of the world. With the rise of globalization, seaports have become vital terminals for the exchange of goods and services. This creates employment and micro-economies in the regions where the ports are located.

Busiest Cargo Ports in South America

RankPortCountryTotal Cargo Volume (Tons, 000s)
5Callao Peru43,374
7Angra dos ReisBrazil37,146
10San Lorenz-San MartinArgentina32,929
11Rio GrandeBrazil24,953
13San Francisco do SulBrazil24,340
14Rio de JaneiroBrazil24,297
15Talcahuano/San VicenteChile18,634

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