The Port of Belawan lies on the estuary of the Deli and Belawan rivers in northeastern Sumatra, Indonesia. The Port of Belawan serves the nearby city of Medan, and it is the busiest port in Indonesia outside Java. Dredged by the Dutch in the early 20th Century, the port exports manufactured goods and Sumatra’s natural resources. A ferry service connects the Port of Belawan to Penang, Malaysia, and Sutan, Thailand.
The Port of Belawan was built in 1890 to move tobacco between the railway and ocean-going vessels. In 1907, a new section was created in the Port of Belawan for native and Chinese traders, and the original port was used for foreign shipping. Cargoes expanded in the early 20th Century when plantations in northern Sumatra began to export palm oil and rubber. During the 1920s, new berthing facilities were constructed for the Port of Belawan.
By 1938, the Port of Belawan was the Dutch East Indies’ largest port. After Indonesian independence in the 1940s, cargo volumes dropped significantly. The Port of Belawan did not reach its colonial cargo traffic until the 1960s.
In 1985, the Port of Belawan undertook a restructuring and the establishment of a new container terminal that was quickly handling a fifth of all containerized exports from Indonesia. Those exports include rubber, tea, palm oil, and coffee.