Maritime transport of goods - quarterly data - Statistics Explained

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Maritime transport of goods - quarterly data


Data extracted in March 2021

Planned article update: July 2021

Highlights

777 million tonnes of goods were handled in the main EU ports in the 3rd quarter of 2020.

The gross weight of goods handled in the main EU ports decreased by 11.3 % in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019.

COVID-19 has most certainly led to a substantial fall of the maritime transport of goods in the 3rd quarter of 2020.

Rotterdam remains the largest EU port with 98 million tonnes of goods handled in the 3rd quarter of 2020.


Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in EU main ports (2014Q3-2020Q3)

This article presents the main results from quarterly statistics on maritime transport of goods in the European Union (EU), plus figures for Norway, Montenegro 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 regions . 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 3rd quarter of 2020. Please note that the quarterly port activity figures are provisional and subject to revisions.


Full article


Gross weight of goods handled in the main EU ports decreased by 11.3 % in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019

At 777 million tonnes, the gross weight of goods handled in the main EU ports increased by 3.1 % in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter but decreased by 11.3 % versus the same quarter of 2019 (Figures 1 and 2). This substantial fall can most probably be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions put in place in the EU and worldwide.

After the steady recovery observed since the 2nd quarter of 2010 following the economic crisis, and the peak of activity reached in the 2nd quarter of 2019, maritime transport observed a downwards trend until the 2nd quarter of 2020.

When looking at the overall annual change, a decrease of 9.2 % was observed in EU port activity in terms of gross weight of goods handled compared to the previous period (Figure 2).


Figure 1: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports by direction, EU, 2008Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewhd)


Inward movement of goods were 58.7 % of the total volume of goods handled in the main EU ports in the 3rd quarter of 2020

The inward movement of goods made 58.7 % of the total volume of goods handled in the main EU ports in the 3rd quarter of 2020. This share decreased by 0.8 percentage points compared to the previous quarter.

Compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019, the inward movements of goods to the main EU ports decreased considerably by 13.1 %, falling to 456 million tonnes in the 3rd quarter of 2020. Outward movements also substantially decreased by 8.6 % over the same period, falling to 321 million tonnes.

When looking at the overall annual aggregate, the inward and outward movements of goods decreased by 10.6 % and 7.2 %, respectively.

Figure 2: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports, EU, 2008Q3-2020Q3
(% change rate on same quarter of previous year and 'annual' change rate)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewhd)

Dry bulk goods registered a decrease of -15.7 % in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019

Compared to the same quarter of 2019, all types of cargo category registered substantial decreases in the 3rd quarter of 2020. Dry bulk goods registered the largest decrease (-15.7 %), followed by liquid bulk goods (-14.7 %), other general cargo (-8.9 %), roll on - roll off (Ro-Ro) units (-7.8 %) and large containers (-4.2 %). When looking at the overall annual change, the situation is similar, with large decreases for dry bulk goods (-12.6 %), other general cargo (-11.4 %), Ro-Ro units (-10.9 %), liquid bulk (-9.4 %) and large containers (-4.4 %) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports by type of cargo, EU, 2018Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewhk)

Netherlands and Spain handled more than 100 million tonnes of goods in the 3rd quarter of 2020

The Netherlands and Spain were the EU countries with the largest maritime freight transport in the 3rd quarter of 2020, both handling more than 100 million tonnes of goods in their main ports (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports, 2019Q3, 2020Q2 and 2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_cwh)

Only four of the maritime EU Member States, as well as the EFTA country Norway, reported an increase in the tonnes of goods handled in their main ports compared to the same quarter of 2019 (Table 1). In relative terms, the largest decrease was observed for Malta (-55.0 %), followed by Latvia (-29.9 %), Bulgaria (-28.4 %), Slovenia (-24.8 %) and Italy (-22.0 %). On the other hand, Croatia reported a substantial increase in main port activity in this period (+8.5 %). The EFTA country Norway also reported a substantial increase in this period (+11.5 %).

When looking at the overall annual change, only Estonia (+4.8 %) and Croatia (+0.4 %) recorded an increase. All other countries registered a drop, the largest in relative terms being recorded by Latvia (-26.1 %), followed by Slovenia (-19.3 %), Italy (-17.7 %), Malta (-13.2 %) and France (-13.1 %).

Table 1: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports, in selected quarters, 2018Q3-2020Q3
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_cwh)

Russia was the EU’s largest maritime transport partner in the 3rd quarter of 2020

It should be noted that the figures presented in this section may be influenced by variations in the level of transport reported with unknown partner region, which was, however, reduced by more than half in the data reported between the 4th quarter 2018 and the 1st quarter 2019.

At 504 million tonnes, short sea shipping tonnages to and from the main EU ports decreased considerably by 11.8 % in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019. Deep sea shipping tonnages saw also a fall of 10.4 %, to 263 million tonnes (Figure 5). When looking at the overall annual change, both short sea shipping and deep sea shipping decreased compared to the previous period (-9.4 % and -7.9 %, respectively).

Figure 5: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports by type of shipping, EU, 2018Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewhg)

Between the 3rd quarter of 2019 and the 3rd quarter of 2020, national transport decreased by 17.9 %, international intra-EU transport by 9.1 % and international extra-EU transport by 10.9 % (Figure 6). When looking at the overall annual change, national transport decreased by 14.1 % compared to the previous period, international intra-EU transport by 8.2 % and international extra-EU transport by 8.1 %.

Figure 6: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports by type of transport, EU, 2018Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewht)

Seaborne transport with all partner regions substantially decreased in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The highest fall was observed for transport with ‘Africa’ (-21.7 %), followed by ’Asia and Oceania’ (-12.9 %), ’EU’ (-12.0 %), ‘America’ (-7.3 %) and ‘Europe except EU’ (-6.6 %) (Figure 7). When looking at the overall annual change, seaborne transport with all partner regions recorded a substantial drop compared to the previous period.

Figure 7: Gross weight of seaborne goods handled in main ports by partner regions, EU, 2018Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewhg)

In terms of the total gross weight of goods, Russia was still the EU’s largest maritime transport partner in the 3rd quarter of 2020, followed by the United Kingdom, the United States of America (USA), China, Turkey, Norway, Brazil, Canada, Nigeria and Egypt (Figure 8). EU transport with Russia represented 12.8 % of the total extra-EU maritime transport.

Maritime transport between the EU and Egypt recorded the largest fall in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 (-34.7 %). EU maritime traffic with Nigeria and Russia also substantially decreased in the same period (-19.2 % and -15.9 %, respectively). In contrast traffic with China increased by 5.1 %.

When looking at the overall annual change, only transport with China increased compared to the previous period (+4.0 %). The largest decrease was observed for transport between the EU and Egypt (-12.2 %).

Figure 8: Top 10 extra-EU partner countries in maritime transport, EU, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewhp)

A substantial share of the seaborne transport with Russia is made up of inward movements of liquid bulk goods to the main EU ports, particularly crude oil and oil products from Russian ports on the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea (Figure 9). Even though Russia was the main partner of the EU in the 3rd quarter of 2020, the main maritime trade flow concerned inward movements of large containers from China. When looking at outward movements, large containers going to China were the second main maritime trade flow, after the outward movements of Ro-Ro mobile units to the United Kingdom.

The top 20 trade flows were largely dominated by inward movements of liquid bulk goods (crude oil and oil products), with the following exceptions: large containers from and to China, Ro-Ro mobile units from and to the United Kingdom, agricultural products from Brazil, ores from the East coast of Canada, large containers from and to Turkey and to the East coast of the USA and coal from Russian ports on the Baltic Sea.

Figure 9: Top 20 extra-EU maritime trade flows, EU, 2019Q3, 2020Q2 and 2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewh)

In the 3rd quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter of 2019, there were substantial decreases in the inward movements of crude oil from Egypt (-55.1 %), Nigeria (-28.5 %), Turkey (-21.3 %) and Russian ports on the Baltic Sea (-18.3 %), oil products from Russian ports on the Baltic Sea (-35.1 %) and on the Black Sea (-16.3 %), coal from Russian ports on the Baltic Sea (-16.3 %), Ro-Ro mobile units from the United Kingdom (-11.6 %) and large containers from China (-10.2 %). By contrast, large increases were observed in the inward movement of crude oil from the East coast of the USA (+98.3 %) and the United Kingdom (+55.2 %), agricultural products from Brazil (+16.3 %), and large containers to China (+10.0 %) (Table 2).

When looking at the overall annual change, twelve of the top 20 maritime trade flows recorded a fall compared to the previous period. The most substantial drop was registered in the inward movements of crude oil from Egypt (-28.9 %), followed by coal from Russian ports on the Baltic Sea (-28.5 %). In contrast, large growths were recorded in the inward movements of crude oil from the East coast of the USA (+59.9 %), agricultural products from Brazil (+20.5 %), crude oil from the United Kingdom (+17.4 %) and oil products from Russian ports on the Black Sea (+17.4 %).

Table 2: Top 20 extra-EU maritime trade flows, EU, in selected quarters, 2018Q3-2020Q3
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_ewh)

Rotterdam was the EU port with largest activity in the 3rd quarter of 2020

Rotterdam was by far the EU port with largest activity in the 3rd quarter of 2020, with 98 million tonnes of gross weight of goods handled (Figure 10). Rotterdam was the main EU port for all types of cargo, with the exception of Ro-Ro mobile units (Figures 11 to 16). Nevertheless, Rotterdam was also in the top 5 ports for Ro-Ro mobile units. The second main port was Antwerpen, which handled slightly more than half of the tonnage recorded by Rotterdam (51 million tonnes). The third port was Hamburg with 27 million tonnes. The fourth port was Algeciras with 22 million tonnes overpassing the second main Dutch port, Amsterdam, which was in fifth position (20 million tonnes). The five ports registered decreases compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019; the highest being for Amsterdam (-19.8 %), followed by Rotterdam (-9.1 %), Hamburg (-7.9 %), Antwerpen (-3.9 %) and Algeciras (-2.8 %).

When looking at the overall annual change, the five ports registered a drop compared to the previous period; the largest being observed for Amsterdam (-11.9 %), followed by Hamburg (-10.0 %) and Rotterdam (-7.7 %).

Figure 10: Top 5 EU maritime ports, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pwh)

When looking at liquid bulk, Rotterdam was the main EU port in the 3rd quarter of 2020, followed by Antwerpen, Marseille, Trieste and Amsterdam (Figure 11). The Italian port registered a large increase of 11.2 % in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019, leading to an overall annual change rate compared to the previous period of 6.0 %. In contrast, all the other ports recorded decreases, with the largest decreases observed for Amsterdam (-21.7 %) and Rotterdam (-17.1 %) in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019.

Figure 11: Top 5 EU maritime ports for liquid bulk, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pwhl)

When looking at dry bulk, Rotterdam and Amsterdam were the two main EU ports in the 3rd quarter of 2020, followed by Hamburg, Klaipeda and Constanta (Figure 12). Klaipeda was the only port of the top 5 to record a growth in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 (+28.0 %). All the other ports registered substantial falls in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 and in the overall annual change rate compared to the previous period. The highest fall was registered for Rotterdam (-25.7 % compared to the same quarter of 2019 and an overall annual change rate of -19.1 %). Constanta and Amsterdam also registered substantial drops compared to the same quarter of 2019 (-24.6 % and -18.0 %, respectively).

Figure 12: Top 5 EU maritime ports for dry bulk, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pwhb)

In the container cargo segment, Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg remained the three main EU ports in the 3rd quarter of 2020, followed by Algeciras and Valencia (Figure 13). Hamburg showed the highest decrease in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of the previous year, with -5.9 %. In contrast, Valencia and Algeciras increased by 7.7 % and 6.6 %, respectively. When looking at the overall annual change, Hamburg and Valencia decreased compared to the previous period (-7.3 % and -2.2 %, respectively) while Algeciras (+2.7 %) and Antwerpen (+1.8 %) increased.

Figure 13: Top 5 EU maritime ports for large containers, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pwhc)

When looking at the number of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled in the same period, the ranking was similar to the one based on tonnes of containerised goods. However, Valencia took the place of Algeciras, which was out of the top five based on TEUs, and Piraeus was in the fifth position (Figure 14). Rotterdam recorded a noticeable increase in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 (+6.0 %), whereas Piraeus (-11.8 %) and Hamburg (-5.2 %) decreased substantially in the same period. Regarding the overall annual change compared to the previous period, Hamburg registered the highest drop (-6.1 %), while only Antwerpen registered an increase among the top five ports (+3.2 %).

Figure 14: Top 5 EU maritime ports for large containers, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(thousand TEUs)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pvh)

When looking at the tonnage of Ro-Ro mobile units, the picture is very different compared to the other types of cargo. Calais was the largest EU Ro-Ro port in the 3rd quarter of 2020, followed by Dublin, Livorno, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.

Livorno and Dublin recorded a noticeable growth in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 (+6.8 % and 4.1 %, respectively. In contrast, the other three ports registered drops; the largest being observed for Zeebrugge (-9.0 %), followed by Calais (-8.7 %) and Rotterdam (-5.0 %). When looking at the overall annual change compared to the previous period, all five ports also registered a fall. The highest was observed for Calais (-12.3 %), followed by Rotterdam (-12.2 %), Zeebrugge (-10.9 %), Livorno (-6.6 %) and Dublin (-4.0 %).

Figure 15: Top 5 EU maritime ports for Ro-Ro mobile units, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pwhr)

When looking at the tonnes of other general cargo, three Dutch ports were part of the top five EU ports in the 3rd quarter of 2020. Rotterdam ranked first, Zeeland ports second and Amsterdam fourth. Valencia ranked third and Antwerpen fifth. Amsterdam registered the largest decrease compared to the same quarter of 2019, with -18.1 %, followed by Valencia (-9.7 %) and Antwerpen (-8.3 %). By contrast, Rotterdam recorded a substantial growth (+55.5 %). When looking at the overall annual change rates compared to the previous period, Rotterdam was the only port to record a growth (+15.0 %) and the highest drop was registered by Antwerpen (-26.2 %).

Figure 16: Top 5 EU maritime ports for other general cargo, 2019Q3-2020Q3
(million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat (mar_qg_qm_pwho)

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 aggregates refer to the total of 22 maritime Member States. Czechia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia have no maritime ports. 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. The candidate countries Montenegro and Turkey provide data on a voluntary basis.

'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 the 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 Figure 5) includes partner ports geographically situated in Europe, on the Mediterranean or on the Black Sea. 'Deep sea shipping' is the complementary geographical aggregate, covering maritime transport of goods on intercontinental routes, crossing oceans. 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 Figure 9 and Table 2) is defined using the following three variables:

  1. Direction: 'inwards' transport is distinguished from 'outwards' transport.
  2. Partner geographical area (partner region): 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).
  3. Type of cargo: the following thirteen cargo types are used in Figure 9 and Table 2: 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 Figures 3 and 11 to 16.


Abbreviations

: not available
- not applicable
Mio million
Nes Not elsewhere specified
Ro-Ro Roll-on/roll-off
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.

Annual data as presented in this publication are the ‘rolling‘ four quarter totals ending in the latest quarter and the corresponding four quarters for earlier years. As a result, the four quarters included do not necessarily come from the same calendar year. For example, the ‘annual’ growth rate in Figure 1 shows the percentage change for the four quarters ending in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared to the four quarters ending in the 3rd quarter of 2019.

The basic results (in million tonnes) 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 data up to and including the 3rd quarter of 2020:

  • 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.
  • 2018 quarterly figures for Portugal include data for all national ports (both main ports and minor ports).

Due to revisions of the underlying data, figures in this article may differ from figures currently or previously available on Eurostat's web site.

Context

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.


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