4 Booms and a Bust: Australian Port Cities to Watch Out For

Finding a good supplier in a country you’ve never visited can be quite the challenge. Especially in a place like Australia that’s half a world away, trading can be tough.

What makes a city good for trade is a busy port.

Shipping is arguably Australia’s most popular transportation method for imports and exports.

Our list of Australia’s ports and their cities will help suppliers and buyers alike navigate the trade waters of the continental coast. Many are great investments. One, however, may not be.



The capital of Queensland and Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane is one of the nation’s most prosperous locales. In fact, in 2016, Brisbane was named a “Beta World City,” recognizing it as a major contributor to international economies and businesses.

Brisbane was named a “Beta World City,” recognizing it as a major contributor to international economies and businesses.

The Port of Brisbane is the third largest in Australia, and is the fastest-growing container port in the country. It moves 28 million tons of cargo per year. That equals out to about 140,000 adult kangaroos. But it’s illegal to transport live animals, so don’t try to confirm that stat.

Brisbane’s port won an innovation award in 2017, and is currently in the middle of an upgrading project worth about $150 million.

The city’s track record on exports and imports, along with its large port, make it a great destination for international businesses. The market is opening, and finding a supplier in the area can increase your business with the country.



A lesser known but vital trading area, Fremantle is home to only 27,000 people.

The present state of Fremantle has developed from its port, which is the largest in Western Australia. It’s the region’s busiest general cargo port, and operates 24 hours a day. Though not as big as Brisbane, Fremantle is the international shipping entrance to the Western Australian region and its largest city: Perth.

With access to such a major metropolis through a relatively small port, international businesses can avoid the bustle of major cities while still sourcing from one. Western Australia is rich in ores and other raw materials, making it a great trading partner for manufacturers and refining companies as well.

The only downside: you’ll have to compete with major Asian economies like China. We believe in you.



We couldn’t have a list of major Australian ports without mentioning Melbourne. The capital of its region, Victoria, Melbourne is the most populous city in the area, and the second in the country. The city’s economy thrives on IT, research, and manufacturing sectors, making it crucial to Australian trade with Asia-Pacific nations.

In fact, international trade is where Melbourne shines brightest. The city’s airport is the busiest in Australia for export freight, and second for import freight. But the sea is Melbourne’s strength.

The Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest for containerized and general cargo. It’s a major port for anything automotive, as Ford, GM, and Toyota have design studios and other large-scale presences there.

The Port gets so much traffic that it was projected to reach capacity in 2015. Since then, the Australian government has implemented large-scale infrastructure projects to maintain its level of traffic. Though this might seem scary for an international small business, there’s no avoiding Melbourne if you’re looking to Victoria for business.

The Port gets so much traffic that it was projected to reach capacity in 2015. Since then, the Australian government has implemented large-scale infrastructure projects to maintain its level of traffic.



To put a little spice into this list, we wanted to list a port that businesses may want to avoid for the foreseeable future.

Darwin is the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory and its port is the country’s “gateway to Asia.” It’s the nation’s nearest port to the Asia-Pacific market, and it has taken advantage of this with many international investments. Specifically, the port was bought, and will be developed, by Chinese company Landbridge.

Since the buyout in 2014, Darwin has gained reputation in the global market as a center for Australasian trade.

Sounds great, right? Well, not to everyone.

The US has largely pulled out of trade with Darwin’s Port, citing national security concerns. Though the port boasts increased trade, the reality is that total trade in tons has decreased, hitting a five-year low of 1.7 million in 2016/2017. By comparison, the port saw more than 4 million tons of trade in 2013/2014.



We’ll leave you with arguably Australia’s best and most well-known port, Jackson.

No, we’re not talking about Mississippi.

Also known as Sydney Harbor, Jackson Port is home to the Sydney Opera House, Harbor Bridge, and many of the city’s famed tourist attractions. But, it doesn’t actually do much trading. The title for largest trading port in the area goes to Port Botany.

Port Botany is Australia’s second largest seaport, and manages all smaller ports in the region. This includes Sydney Harbor, Glebe Island, White Bay, and others.

The Port recently completed an infrastructure project that doubled its container capacity. Along with its proximity to other ports and Australia’s most populous city, Port Botany remains a great destination for international businesses.

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