Maritime transport of goods - quarterly data
Data extracted in October 2018
Planned article update: January 2019
978 million tonnes of goods were handled in the main EU ports in the 4th quarter of 2017.
The gross weight of goods handled in the main EU ports reached a peak of 3.9 billion tonnes of goods in 2017.
Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in EU-28 main ports
This article presents the main results from quarterly statistics on maritime transport of goods in the European Union (EU), plus figures for Norway and Turkey. It covers the gross weight of goods handled in the main European ports, by type of cargo, direction, reporting country and various partner maritime geographical areas. These data are complemented by maritime transport flows with the main extra-EU partners, and with individual results for the major European ports.
The article contains data for the 4th quarter of 2017. Please note that the quarterly port activity figures are provisional and subject to revisions.
EU ports activity
At 978 million tonnes, the gross weight of goods handled in the main EU-28 ports decreased by 0.6 % compared with the previous quarter. Compared with the 4th quarter of 2016, the gross weight of goods handled in the main EU ports increased by 3.2 % in the 4th quarter of 2017. The overall annual growth showed an increase of 2.7 % in EU port activity in terms of the gross weight of goods handled compared with the previous year (Figure 1 and Table 1).
Following the continued underlying growth trend observed since the 2nd quarter of 2013, the gross weight of goods handled in the main EU ports in 2017 finally surpassed the volumes handled before the start of the economic downturn in Europe.
EU ports activity by direction, type of cargo and reporting country
Inward movements of goods made up close to 60 % of the total volume of goods handled in the main EU ports in the 4th quarter of 2017, about the same as in previous quarters. Compared with the 4th quarter of 2016, inward and outward movements of goods to/from the main EU ports increased by 3.2 % in the 4th quarter of 2017 (Table 2).
Compared with the previous quarter, the 4th quarter of 2017 saw an increase of 5.3 % in the volumes of other general cargo, while the tonnages of liquid bulk goods, dry bulk goods, roll on - roll off (Ro-Ro) units and the volumes of containerised goods handled in the main EU ports saw decreases compared with the previous quarter (-1.4 %, -0.5 %, -1.3 % and -0.4 %, respectively).
Compared with the corresponding quarter of 2016, all categories recorded an increase with the largest rises for containerised goods and Ro-Ro units (Table 3).
The Netherlands, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom were the largest maritime freight transport countries in Europe in the 4th quarter of 2017, all handling more than 100 million tonnes of goods in their main ports. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, only Spain and Italy recorded an increase in main port activity in the 4th quarter 2017 (+6.5 % and +10.5 %, respectively), while the United Kingdom and the Netherlands both saw a decrease (-2.1% and -0.7 %, respectively) (Table 4).
Overall, five of the maritime EU member states reported a decrease in the tonnes of goods handled in their main ports compared with the same quarter of the previous year, while seventeen reported growth. In relative terms, the largest decrease was recorded in Latvia (-18.2 %). Malta, Poland and Estonia, on the other hand, each reported an increase in main port activity of more than 15 % in this period.
The main seaborne transport partners
At 643 million tonnes, short sea shipping tonnages to and from the main EU ports increased by 0.1 % from the previous quarter. Deep sea shipping tonnages saw a decrease of 1.6 %, at 305 million tonnes. Between the same periods, national transport decreased by 5.5 % while international extra-EU transport by sea increased by 0.9%, mainly thanks to increases in seaborne transport with Asia and Oceania and also with European countries not Members of the EU. It should be noted that these figures may be influenced by variations in the level of transport reported with unknown partner geographical zones (Table 5).
In terms of the total gross weight of goods, Russia was the EU’s largest maritime transport partner in the 4th quarter of 2017, followed by the United States of America (USA), Turkey, Norway, China and Brazil (Table 6). A substantial share of the seaborne transport with Russia is made up of imports of liquid bulk goods to the main EU ports, particularly crude oil and oil products from Russian ports on the Baltic and the Black Sea (Table 7).
Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, there were noticeable decreases in inward movements of crude oil and oil products from the Russian ports on the Baltic Sea as well as in inward movements of crude oil from Egypt. Inward movements of crude oil from the Russian ports on the Black Sea also declined. In contrast, the 4th quarter 2017 saw substantial increases in inward movements of crude oil from Libya and Nigeria, as well as in inward movements of coal from the East Coast of the USA. Outward movements of containers to China decreased; in contrast outward movements of containers to the East coast of the USA and Turkey increased in the same period.
Top European ports
Two of the EU’s top 5 ports saw an increase in port freight activity in the 4th quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter of the previous year. Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, recorded a decrease of 3.0 % in the total gross weight of goods handled in this period, while Algeciras in Spain registered an increase of 5.0 % (Table 8).
With the exception of Ro-Ro mobile units, Rotterdam was the largest European port for all other types of cargo in the 4th quarter of 2017. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, Rotterdam saw an increase in the tonnes of containerised goods (+14.5 %), while Rotterdam saw decreases in the tonnes of liquid bulk goods (-6.0 %), in the tonnes of dry bulk goods (-16.7 %) and in the tonnes of other general cargo (-12.4 %). In comparison, Europe’s second largest port, Antwerpen, recorded increase in the tonnes of liquid bulk goods (+16.3 %) within the same periods (Tables 9-13).
Among other ports, Botas in Turkey saw a large decrease in the tonnes of liquid bulk goods (-18.1 %) compared with the 4th quarter of 2016, while the Turkish ports of Izmit and Iskenderun, Hatay recorded a significant increase in the tonnes of dry bulk goods (+39.1 % and +33.1 %, respectively). In comparison, Immingham recorded a noticeable increase in the gross weight of goods transported on Ro-Ro units and a large increase was recorded for Hamburg in the tonnes of dry bulk goods during the same period (+18.9 % and +15.0 %, respectively).
In the container cargo segment, three of the EU’s top 5 ports recorded increases in the tonnes of containerised goods compared with 4th quarter of 2016. Rotterdam showed the highest increase with 14.5 %. In contrast, Hamburg registered a fall of 6.7 % (Table 11). When looking at the number of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled in the same period, all EU’s top 5 ports recorded an increase, except Hamburg showing a decrease of -6.2 % (Table 14).
Dover remained Europe’s largest Ro-Ro port in the 4th quarter of 2017, despite a decrease of 0.6 % in the tonnes of goods handled on Ro-Ro units compared with the same quarter of the previous year. On the other side of the Channel, the port of Calais saw also a decrease in terms of the gross weight of goods on Ro-Ro units compared with the same quarter of the previous year (-2.5 %). Among the other top Ro-Ro ports, Dublin and Zeebrugge both recorded an increase in tonnes of goods handled on Ro-Ro units in this period (+4.3 % and +0.3 %, respectively) in Ro-Ro tonnages (Table 12).
Source data for tables and graphs
Data sources and availability
The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of the EU maritime transport statistics Directive 2009/42/EC on statistical returns in respect of carriage of goods and passengers by sea.
EU-28 aggregates refer to the total of 23 maritime Member States. The Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia have no maritime ports. However, EU-28 aggregates exceptionally exclude Cyprus as quarterly data for reference period 2017 are not available (see specific remarks below). Norway and Iceland provide Eurostat with data as members of the European Economic Area (EEA). However, quarterly data are currently not available for Iceland. The EEA country Liechtenstein has no maritime ports. Turkey provides data on a voluntary basis as a candidate country.
“Main ports” are ports handling more than 1 million tonnes of goods 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. All tables are based on ports’ total (inward + outward) declarations. The results represent the "handling" of goods in ports.
The “short sea shipping” aggregate (in Table 5) includes partner ports situated in geographical Europe, on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. “Deep sea shipping” is the complementary geographical aggregate. A more extensive definition of “short sea shipping” is available in the article Maritime transport statistics - short sea shipping of goods.
The concept of maritime transport trade (in Table 7) is defined using the following three variables:
- Direction: “inward” transport is distinguished from “outward” transport.
- Partner geographical area: usually this corresponds to one country, with the exception of countries of such a size and/or geographical position that the location of individual ports may be quite different and may have a strong impact on the maritime route followed. For example, the ports of the United States of America are grouped in two geographical areas: "East coast" (including Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes and Puerto Rico) and "West coast" (Pacific).
- Type of cargo: the following thirteen cargo types are used in Table 8: liquefied gas, crude oil, oil products, other liquid bulk goods, ores, coal, agricultural products, other dry bulk goods, large containers, Ro-Ro mobile units, forestry products, iron/steel products and other general cargo. The first four types constitute "liquid bulk", the subsequent four types "dry bulk", and the last three types "other general cargo not elsewhere specified", as presented in Tables 3 and 9 to 13.
|Nes||Not elsewhere specified|
|TEU||Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit|
Quarterly data are in general provisional. Revisions may be made by countries as more complete information becomes available or as a result of quality checks. More specifically, when the complete set of annual data emerges, this usually involves some revision of quarterly data for some countries. This applies particularly to the quarterly estimates of port traffic by type of cargo, which are less robust than the annual totals.
The basic results (in million tonnes; in thousand TEUs) and the derived indicators (growth rates) shown in the tables are rounded. However, they are all based on non-rounded original data, as available in Eurostat's database.
Specific remarks for this publication for data up to and including the 4th quarter 2017:
- The quarterly data for port activity in France have been partially estimated by Eurostat for the period 2009 Q1-2016 Q2. These data are to be considered as provisional and are likely to be revised. In general, such estimates reduce the accuracy of the statistics at detailed levels.
- Starting from 2013 Q1, the quarterly figures for Germany include data for all national ports (both main ports and minor ports).
- Starting from 2013 Q1, the quarterly figures for Sweden include data for all national ports (both main ports and minor ports).
- Starting from 2011 Q1, the quarterly figures for Spain include data for a number of regional ports outside the state-controlled port system.
- Data for Cyprus are not available for all quarters of 2017 and thus data for this country are not included in the EU-28 aggregates for the whole period considered in this publication in order to ensure coherence in the time series.
Due to revisions of the underlying data, figures in this article may differ from figures currently or previously available on Eurostat's web site.
The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of the EU maritime transport statistics Directive 2009/42/EC of 6 May 2009 on statistical returns in respect of carriage of goods and passengers by sea), which is a recast of the original Council Directive 95/64/EC of 8 December 1995.
- 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)
The basic legal act (Directive 2009/42/EC) was amended by:
- Commission Decision 2010/216/EU of the EP and of the Council of 14 April 2010, OJ L 94, 15.4.2010, p. 33-40
- Regulation (EU) No 1090/2010 of the EP 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: