Ports play a vital role in global oil trade and those with significant influence implicitly have better control over global oil transportation. To provide a better understanding of port influence, it is necessary to analyze the development of the mechanisms underlying port influence. In this study, we adopt a port influence diffusion model to modelling diffusion patterns using vessel trajectory data from 2009 to 2016. The results of the case study of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Singapore ports shows: 1) ports with a strong direct influence control their neighboring ports, thereby building a direct influence area; 2) directly influenced ports show path-dependent characteristics, reflecting the importance of geographical distance; 3) the indirect influence of the initial diffusion port creates hierarchical diffusion, with directly influenced ports affected by previous diffusion-influenced ports. 4) a port’s indirect influence and efficiency can be increased via an increase in the number of significant ports it influences directly or by increasing its influence on significant ports in an earlier diffusion stage.