Maritime ports freight and passenger statistics
- Data from March 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: March 2017.
This article presents the latest statistical data on freight handling and passenger traffic in ports in the European Union (EU), Iceland, Norway, Montenegro and Turkey. It also covers maritime transport flows with the main partner geographical areas, as well as individual results for major European ports. This article contains data for 2014. Please note that the 2009-2014 figures for France are provisional estimates which are likely to be revised.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 1.1 Increase in volumes of seaborne goods and passengers in EU ports
- 1.2 The Netherlands is EU’s largest maritime freight transport country
- 1.3 Liquid bulk made up 37 % of the total tonnage
- 1.4 Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg stayed top ports
- 1.5 Most EU maritime freight transport is with extra-EU partners
- 1.6 Slight increase in number of seaborne passengers
- 1.7 Most EU seaborne passenger transport is within national borders
- 1.8 More vessels calling in the main EU ports
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
Main statistical findings
Increase in volumes of seaborne goods and passengers in EU ports
The total gross weight of goods handled in EU ports is estimated at close to 3.8 billion tonnes in 2014, an increase of 2 % from 2013. According to the latest figures, the EU port freight activity seems to have started on a path towards recovery in the second half of 2013, a trend that continued throughout 2014 (Figure 1). Even so, the gross weight of goods handled in EU ports in 2014 was still lower than the annual volumes handled before the economic downturn in Europe in 2009.
The Netherlands remained the largest maritime freight transport country in Europe in 2014, while Rotterdam, Antwerpen, Hamburg and Amsterdam maintained their positions as the four largest ports. The 20 largest ports accounted for about 38 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in the countries reporting data in 2014. Rotterdam alone accounted for almost 10 % of the total tonnage (Table 3).
The number of passengers passing through EU ports increased 0.6 % between 2013 and 2014, to 402 million passengers. With 75 million passengers passing through its ports, Greece was the major seaborne passenger country in Europe in 2014, overtaking Italy for the first time since 2008. These two countries remained the leading maritime passenger transport countries in Europe in 2014, with a combined share of close to 37 % of the total number of seaborne passengers embarking and disembarking in the EU countries (Table 6).
The Netherlands is EU’s largest maritime freight transport country
The Netherlands has recorded the largest annual tonnage of maritime freight transport in Europe every year since overtaking the United Kingdom in 2010 (Table 1). At close to 571 million tonnes, the volume of seaborne goods handled in Dutch ports in 2014 represented 15 % of the EU-28 total. The Netherlands was followed by the United Kingdom (UK) and Italy, with shares of 13.3 % and 11.7 % of the EU total, respectively.
Behind these three, Spain remained the fourth largest EU maritime freight transport country, while Germany climbed to fifth place, narrowly overtaking France. Ports in the candidate country Turkey handled almost 379 million tonnes of goods in 2014, placing Turkey between Spain and Germany in terms of total volume of seaborne goods handled in the reporting countries.
Compared with 2013, the biggest relative increases in port activity were recorded by Malta (+11.6 % from a low base), Spain (+7.6 %), Latvia (+7.0 %) and Poland (+6.9 %). The largest relative decreases were recorded in Bulgaria (-5.6 %), Croatia (-3.9 %) and Italy (-3.0 %).
Inward movements of goods to the EU-28 countries increased by 1.4 % in 2014, while outwards movements increased by 3.0 %. Nonetheless, inwards movements still accounted for about 60 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in the EU ports. Liquid bulk goods, such as crude oil and oil products, made up a substantial proportion of the inward tonnage.
More seaborne goods are unloaded from than loaded onto vessels in the majority of EU countries. Malta and the Netherlands had the highest shares of total tonnage unloaded in 2014, with respective shares of 91 % and 69 % of the total tonnage of seaborne goods recorded as inward movements to their ports. In contrast, Romania and Bulgaria (agricultural products), the three Baltic countries (oil products) and the EEA country Norway (ores, other dry bulk goods, crude oil and oil products) all had high shares of outward movements of goods.
Liquid bulk made up 37 % of the total tonnage
Liquid bulk goods accounted for 37 % of the total tonnage of cargo handled in the main EU ports in 2014, followed by dry bulk goods (23 %), containerised goods (21 %) and Ro-Ro mobile units (12 %). The largest tonnage of liquid bulk goods were handled in the Netherlands (261 million tonnes), followed by the United Kingdom (188 million tonnes) and Italy (180 million tonnes). Estonia recorded by far the highest share of liquid bulk goods as a percentage of the total tonnage passing through its main ports (Table 2), reflecting large volumes of oil products moved outwards to the United States.
With 140 million tonnes, Dutch ports handled the largest tonnage of dry bulk goods in the EU in 2014, followed by the United Kingdom with 122 million tonnes of dry bulk goods. Even so, the level of dry bulk tonnage handled in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom was lower than the 156 million tonnes reported by the candidate country Turkey in 2014.
Containers were the dominant type of cargo handled by German and Belgian ports in 2014, with respective shares of 44 % and 41 % of the total tonnage passing through the ports of the two countries. The largest tonnages of containerised goods, however, were handled in German and Spanish ports, with 133 million tonnes and 127 million tonnes, respectively.
The share of Ro-Ro units in the total tonnage of goods was the highest for Denmark (29 %), Ireland (28 %) and Sweden (26 %), reflecting the importance of Ro-Ro ferry traffic in the seaborne transport of these countries. In tonnage terms, the United Kingdom (100 million tonnes) and Italy (85 million tonnes) recorded the largest quantities of goods transported on Ro-Ro mobile units to and from EU ports in 2014.
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg stayed top ports
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg, all located on the North Sea coast, consolidated their positions as Europe's top three ports in 2014, both in terms of the gross weight of goods handled and in terms of the volume of containers handled in the ports. The 20 largest cargo ports accounted for 38 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in the main ports of the reporting countries in 2014, about the same share as in 2013. The largest port in Europe, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, on its own accounted for close to 10 % of the total tonnage.
All the top 5 cargo ports in Europe recorded increases in the tonnages handled in 2014 (Table 3). While Rotterdam saw an increase of 1.6 % in total tonnage from the previous year, Antwerpen in Belgium, Hamburg in Germany and Amsterdam in the Netherlands all recorded growth of between 4 % and 5 %. The port of Algeciras in Spain recorded a growth of almost 12 % compared with 2013, overtaking Marseille as the 5th largest European port in terms of gross weight of goods handled in 2014.
Among the other top 20 cargo ports, Barcelona in Spain (+19.8 %), Genova in Italy and Aliaga in Turkey (both +6.3 %) all reported substantial increases in the total tonnage of goods handled in 2014. In contrast, the ports of Bergen in Norway (-18.8 %), Immingham in the United Kingdom (-5.2 %) and Le Havre in France (-4.6 %) reported substantial decreases in port activity in 2014, mainly caused by reduced tonnage of dry bulk goods in the last two ports and by reduced tonnage of liquid bulk goods in Bergen.
With 11.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled in 2014, Rotterdam was also Europe’s largest container port (Table 4). Rotterdam was followed by Hamburg with 9.8 million TEUs and Antwerpen with 8.8 million TEUs handled in 2014. Most of the container ports in the top 20 reported increases in the number of TEUs handled in 2014. In relative terms, the largest increases were recorded by Sines in Portugal (+31.9 %), Genova in Italy (+30.3 %) and Southampton in the United Kingdom (+27.2 %). Only two of the ports in the top 20 reported handling a lower volume of TEUs in 2014 than in the previous year: Bremerhaven in Germany (-1.6 %) and Marseille in France (-0.5 %).
The most specialised of the top 20 cargo ports were Bremerhaven in Germany, Piraeus in Greece and Ambarli in Turkey (all handling mostly containers), as well as Bergen in Norway and Botas in Turkey (both handling mostly liquid bulk goods). While inward activity was prevalent in most of the top 20 ports, the ports of Bergen and Botas both handled substantial outward movements of crude oil. In addition, Bremerhaven and the Spanish port of Valencia recorded more outward than inwards movements of containerised goods (Table 3).
Eleven of the top 20 cargo ports in 2014 were located on the Mediterranean and eight were located on the North Sea coast, while one port was located on the Atlantic coast of Europe (Map 1). The composition of the port infrastructure will sometimes determine whether a country is represented on the top 20 list of cargo ports or not. Denmark, Sweden and Finland, for instance, have a large number of medium-sized ports, all handling lower volumes of goods than the 39.9 million tonnes required to make the top 20 list.
Most EU maritime freight transport is with extra-EU partners
Unlike statistics presented earlier in this article, the figures in Table 5 do not present the total handling of goods in ports (inward movements plus outward movements in the ports), but estimate the seaborne transport of goods between the main European ports and their partner ports. As far as possible, double-counting of the same goods being reported as outward transport in one port and inward transport in another port is excluded in these figures (see data sources and availability).
At just over 3 billion tonnes, the EU seaborne transport of goods increased 0.5 % from 2013 to 2014. The majority of these goods (64 %) were transported to or from ports outside the EU (international extra EU-28 transport), making maritime transport the most important mode for long distance transport of goods to or from the EU, in tonnage terms. Cross-border transport between ports in the EU (international intra EU-28 transport) made up 25 % of the maritime transport of goods in 2014, while transport of goods between national ports made up 9 % of the total maritime transport on EU level.
In countries with long shorelines or a large number of islands, like Italy, Greece, Denmark and the EFTA country Norway, the share of national seaborne transport tend to be relatively high (from 18 % to 32 %). Countries like Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Finland and Sweden, on the other hand, have high shares of international intra-EU transport (above 60 %), because their main maritime freight transport partners are found within the EU. Other countries, like Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Croatia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia, have high shares of extra-EU transport (above 60 %), based on their geographical position or the "deep sea" nature of the transport activities prevailing in their main ports.
Map 2 illustrates the seven largest maritime transport flows between the EU and the main international partner areas. As shown in the map, the top seven transport flows of goods to or from the EU in 2014 were all inward flows. In declining order, the top seven seaborne transport flows with the EU in 2014 were the inward flows of goods from the Baltic Sea region of Russia (7 % of the total EU seaborne transport), Norway (5.5 %), the East Coast of the USA (4.8 %), Brazil (4.7 %), the Black Sea region of Russia (3.6 %), China (3.3 %) and Egypt (2.8 %). In comparison, the eighth largest seaborne transport flow in 2014 was the outward flow of goods from the EU to the East Coast of the USA (2.8 %, not illustrated in the map).
Slight increase in number of seaborne passengers
The total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports is estimated at 402 million in 2014, a rise of 0.6 % from the previous year. The slight overall increase in the number of seaborne passengers over the last two years might be an indication that the decline in the number of seaborne passengers observed from 2009 to 2012 has come to an end (Table 6).
Unlike goods movements, where broadly 60 % of goods are unloaded and 40 % loaded in the European ports, the difference between the number of passengers embarking ("outwards") and disembarking ("inwards") in European ports is normally small. This reflects the fact that seaborne passenger transport in Europe is mainly carried by national or intra-EU ferry services, with the same passengers being counted twice in the statistics (once when they embark the ferry in one port and once when they disembark in another).
Greece recorded a rise of 3.4 % in the number of seaborne passengers passing through its ports in 2014, overtaking Italy as the major seaborne passenger transport country in Europe. With 75 million and 72 million seaborne passengers in 2014, respectively, Greek and Italian ports handled a combined share of 37 % of the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports in 2014, followed by Danish ports with 10 % of the EU seaborne passengers (41 million passengers).
The top 20 passenger ports accounted for 38% of the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in the reporting countries in 2014, about the same as in 2013 (Table 7). The port of Dover in the United Kingdom consolidated its position as the largest passenger port in the EU with a 3.7 % increase in the number of seaborne passengers from 2013 to 2014. The ports of Algeciras in Spain and Stockholm in Sweden recorded the largest relative increases in the number of passengers in 2014 (both close to +12 %), while the Italian ports of Reggio di Calabria and Capri recorded the largest decreases (-8.5 % and -6.7 %, respectively).
Cruise passengers made up only 2.8 % of the total number of seaborne passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports in 2014. However, these passengers play an important role in the ports and countries where this traffic is concentrated. Close to 80 % of the total number of cruise passengers embarking and disembarking in European ports in 2014 did so in the ports of one of the four countries Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany (Table 6). Cruise passengers on day excursions in EU ports are not included in these figures.
The time series in Tables 6 and 7 show that some countries and ports have experienced substantial decreases in the number of seaborne passengers over time. These sudden drops are typically caused by structural changes, such as openings of new bridge or tunnel connections and subsequent closure of ferry links. The rapid growth in low cost flights in recent years might be another cause behind the declining trend in the number of seaborne passengers over time.
Most EU seaborne passenger transport is within national borders
Table 8 shows the breakdown of seaborne passenger transport between national, international intra-EU and international extra-EU transport for each reporting country (excluding cruise passengers). Unlike the statistics presented in tables 6 and 7, these figures do not reflect the sum of embarkation and disembarkation of passengers in ports, but estimate the transport of passengers between ports. As far as possible, double-counting of the same passengers being reported as embarking in one port and disembarking in another port is excluded in these figures (see data sources and availability).
Seaborne passenger transport to and from the main EU-28 ports declined 0.1 % from 2013 to 2014, remaining more or less stable at an estimated 210 million passengers. However, eighteen of the reporting countries recorded increases in the transport of seaborne passengers from 2013 to 2014. The largest relative increases were reported by the candidate country Turkey (+6.1 %), Poland (+5.8 %) and Malta (+5.6 %). In contrast, the estimated number of seaborne passengers transported to or from the main ports of Croatia and Latvia fell by just above 12 % in the same period.
The majority of the seaborne passenger transport in the EU is carried out between ports situated in the same country (58 %), reflecting the dominant role of national ferry services in the European seaborne passenger transport. In general, countries with busy ferry connections to and from, or between, well-populated islands will have both a large volume of seaborne passenger transport and a high share of national maritime passenger transport. This applies to the two leading maritime passenger transport countries, Italy and Greece, as well as countries like Germany, Croatia and Portugal.
Countries with regular ferry connections to other EU countries, like Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, naturally have high shares of international intra-EU transport. As in previous years, Spain and Denmark recorded relatively high shares of extra-EU seaborne passenger transport in 2014, with Spain having ferry links with Morocco and Denmark with Norway.
More vessels calling in the main EU ports
The number of vessels calling in main EU-28 ports (excluding French ports) in 2014 is estimated at just above 2.1 million in 2014, an increase of 2.5 % from the previous year (Table 9). With the corresponding gross vessel tonnage (GT) little changed, the average size of vessels calling in the EU ports fell by 2.2% to 6 850 GT, falling back from the record level reported in 2013.
Data sources and availability
This article presents the trends in freight and passenger transport in European Union (EU) ports and also includes figures for Iceland, Norway, Montenegro and Turkey. The content is based on data collected within the legal framework for EU maritime transport statistics, i.e. Directive 2009/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on statistical returns in respect of carriage of goods and passengers by sea and later amendments. Directive 2009/42/EC is a recast of the original Council Directive 95/64/EC of 8 December 1995.
The EU-28 aggregates in the statistics refer to the total of 23 maritime Member States. The Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia have no maritime ports. Norway and Iceland provide Eurostat with data as members of the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA country Liechtenstein has no maritime ports. Montenegro and Turkey provide data as candidate countries.
“Main ports” are ports handling more than 1 million tonnes of goods or more than 200 000 passengers annually (however, data for some smaller ports may be included in the published results). Data are presented at level of “statistical ports”. A statistical port consists of one or more ports, normally controlled by a single port authority, able to record ship and cargo movements.
Explanatory notes for tables:
Basic results and derived indicators (such as growth rates and shares in % of total) in the tables are rounded. However, the figures are based on the non-rounded original data. As a result, the sum of shares in % of total, as shown in the tables, is not necessarily equal to 100%. A special aggregate EEA+TR is used in some tables in this article to facilitate the comparability of certain time series.
Explanatory notes for countries are available in the metadata on the Eurostat website.
Table 1: From 1997 to 1999 Greek data refer to main ports only. Estonian data up to and including 2004 refer to main ports only. Starting from 2011, the figures for Spain include data for a number of minor regional ports outside the state-controlled port system. Croatia started to report data on seaborne transport in 2000, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovenia in 2001, Cyprus and Malta in 2002, Turkey in 2008 and Montenegro in 2012. Data for inwards/outwards movements are not available for Icelandic ports. Data have been partially estimated by Eurostat for a number of French ports for the period 2009-2014. In consequence, the French data for 2009-2014 should be considered as provisional estimates which are likely to be revised.
Tables 2, 3 and 4: The category “large containers” includes containers having a length of 20 feet or more. Smaller containers are included in the category “other cargo, not elsewhere specified”. As a general rule, the container figures are limited to lift-on lift-off containers. Data are not available for Iceland and Montenegro. French data for the period 2012-2014 are provisional estimates which are likely to be revised.
Tables 5 and 8: In order to estimate maritime transport of goods/passengers, the problem of "double counting" (the transport of the same cargo of goods/passengers being declared by both the port of loading/embarking – as outward – and the port of unloading/ disembarking – as inward) has to be addressed. As far as possible, adjustments are made when estimating the "national transport" of individual countries and "international intra-EU-28 transport" of the EU-28. The figures shown as "national transport" for the EU-28 are simply based on the sum of the national transport of the Member States. In other words, the sum of the national and international intra-EU-28 transport of the EU-28 would represent the "national transport of the EU-28", if the EU-28 was treated as one country. All the other figures (international intra-EU-28 transport for individual countries and international extra-EU-28 transport) are based on the sum of inward and outward declarations. Data are not available for Iceland and Montenegro. The figures for France in these tables are provisional Eurostat estimates based on partial data, which are likely to be revised. Please note that an higher level in the recording of unknown port of loading or unloading in 2013 compared to 2014 may have influenced the transport figure calculations for 2013, as well as the shares of maritime transport allocated to intra-EU, extra-EU and national maritime transport.
Table 6: Data include (cruise and non-cruise) passengers starting and ending a voyage. As a general rule, cruise passengers on day excursions are excluded. There is no data for Germany for 1997-1999 (legal derogation). Slovenia provided only the total number of passengers from 2004 to 2007. Estonian data up to and including 2004 refer to main ports only. Starting from 2011, the figures for Spain include data for a number of minor regional ports outside the state-controlled port system. Netherlands only provide the number of non-cruise passengers (“ferry passengers”). The passenger figures for Portugal do not include cruise passengers until 2011. For 1997, only minor ports in Portugal were reporting. Passenger data for Norway cover international traffic only. Croatia started reporting passenger data in 2000, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia started reporting in 2001, Cyprus and Malta in 2002, Romania in 2007, Turkey in 2008 and Montenegro in 2012. Data for Icelandic ports are not available for 2007 and 2008. Data for inwards/outwards movements are not available for Icelandic ports. Data for Iceland exclude cruise passengers. French data for the period 2009-2014 are provisional estimates which are likely to be revised.
Table 7: Data include (cruise and non-cruise) passengers starting and ending a voyage: cruise passengers on excursion (transit) are excluded. There are no data available for German ports up to and including 1999. Estonia started to report passenger data in 2001. Passenger data for Norway cover international traffic only. Passenger transport data for Malta do not include international transport to/from the port of Valetta.
Table 8: See above (Table 5). Please note that the recording of unknown port of loading or unloading may have influenced the transport figure calculations, as well as the shares of maritime transport allocated to intra-EU, extra-EU and National maritime transport. Data are not available for Iceland and Montenegro.
Table 9: The detailed data necessary for the compilation of this table are not available for France from 2009 and for the Irish port of Rosslare up to and including 2008.
Special symbols used in the tables
':' not available
'-' not applicable
The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of the EU maritime transport statistics Directive, i.e. Directive 2009/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on statistical returns in respect of carriage of goods and passengers by sea (OJ L141 of 6.6.2009, page 29), which is a recast of the original Council Directive 95/64 (EC) of 8 December 1995.
The basic legal act (Directive 2009/42/EC) was amended by:
- Commission Decision 2010/216/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 April 2010, OJ L 94, 15.4.2010, p. 33-40
- Regulation (EU) No 1090/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010, OJ L 325, 9.12.2010, p. 1-3
- Commission Delegated Decision 2012/186/EU of 3 February 2012 OJ L 101 of 11.4.2012 pp. 5-14.
The following legal acts include respectively the last official version of the list of ports and some dissemination aspects:
- Commission Decision 2001/423/EC of 22 May 2001 (on dissemination) OJ L 151 of 07.06.2001 p. 41
- Commission Decision 2008/861/EC of 29 October 2008 (codified version) (Port list), OJ L 306, 15.11.2008, p. 66-97
- Freight transport statistics
- Freight transport statistics - modal split
- Maritime transport of goods - quarterly data
- Maritime transport statistics - short sea shipping of goods
- Passenger transport statistics
Further Eurostat information
- Transport, see:
- Maritime transport (mar)
- Maritime transport - main annual results (mar_m)
- Maritime transport - short sea shipping - main annual results (mar_s)
- Maritime transport - passengers (mar_pa)
- Maritime transport - goods (mar_go)
- Maritime transport - vessel traffic (mar_tf)
- Maritime transport - regional statistics (mar_rg)
Methodology / Metadata
- Maritime transport (ESMS metadata file — mar_esms)
- Reference Manual on Maritime Transport Statistics
- E3 Transport