Maritime freight and vessels statistics
Data from December 2020.
Planned update: January 2022.
3.6 billion tonnes of freight were handled in EU ports in 2019.
The Netherlands remained the largest maritime freight transport country in Europe in 2019.
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg maintained their positions as Europe's top 3 ports in 2019.
The average size of vessels calling at main EU ports is estimated at 7 300 gross tonnage per vessel.
Gross weight of seaborne freight handled in all ports in 2019 (in tonnes per capita)
This article presents the latest statistical data on freight handling and vessels traffic in ports in the European Union (EU), the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, the United Kingdom and the candidate countries 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 2019.
Seaborne freight handled in European ports
The total gross weight of goods handled in EU ports was estimated at 3.6 billion tonnes in 2019, remaining stable compared with 2018 (+0.1 %). According to the latest figures, EU port freight activity seems to have resumed on a slight path towards recovery in 2014, a trend that was sustained in all quarters of 2018 and the first semester of 2019. However, the last two quarters of 2019 showed a negative evolution when comparing with the same quarters of 2018 (-1.6 % in the 3rd quarter and -3.3 % in the 4th quarter) (Figure 1). The gross weight of goods handled in EU ports in 2019 reached a new peak, surpassing the volumes handled in the years immediately preceding the economic downturn in Europe in 2009, with 203 million tonnes (+6.0 %) more than in the peak reached in 2007.
The Netherlands remained the largest maritime freight transport country in Europe in 2019, while Rotterdam, Antwerpen, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Algeciras, Marseille and Izmit maintained their positions as the 7 largest freight ports.
Among the EU Member States, the seaborne freight-per-capita ratio varied from 35.0 tonnes per inhabitant in the Netherlands to 2.5 tonnes per inhabitant in Poland in 2019. The EU average was 8.0 tonnes per inhabitant. However, Norway recorded the highest ratio of the countries reporting maritime data to Eurostat, with 39.5 tonnes of seaborne goods handled per inhabitant in 2019 (Figure 2).
The Netherlands is EU’s largest maritime freight transport country
The Netherlands reported the largest volume of seaborne freight handled in Europe in 2019. At 608 million tonnes, the volume of seaborne goods handled in Dutch ports represented 16.9 % of the EU total in 2019. The Netherlands was followed by Italy and Spain, with respective shares of 14.2 % and 13.9 % (Figure 3).
Among other countries reporting maritime freight data to Eurostat, the United Kingdom and the candidate country Turkey handled 486 and 478 million tonnes of goods in 2019, placing these two countries between Spain and France in terms of total tonnage of seaborne goods handled.
Compared to 2018, the largest relative increases in port freight activity among the EU Member States were recorded by Malta (+14.0 %), Bulgaria (+11.2 %), Romania (+8.1 %) and Cyprus (+6.9 %). Eleven Member States registered a decrease in port freight activity, as well as the EFTA country Norway. The largest drops were observed in Latvia (-5.8 %), Portugal (-5.6 %), Sweden (-5.2 %), Croatia (-4.6 %) and Slovenia (-4.4 %).
All in all, only 4 Member States, as well as the United Kingdom, recorded decreases in port freight activity in the ten-year period between 2009 and 2019. It has to be noted that 2009 was heavily impacted by the economic crisis The highest relative falls were observed for Croatia (-12.0 %) and France (-4.2 %). In contrast, Poland registered the largest relative increase (+108.2 %), followed by Slovenia (+65.6 %), Malta (+54.2 %), Lithuania (+52.1 %), Romania (+47.1 %), Greece (+43.6 %) and Bulgaria (+41.6 %). Seven other countries registered growth higher than 20 % over the same period. Turkey also reported a noticeable increase by +62.7 %.
Inward movements of goods to the EU countries increased by 1.2 % to more than 2.1 billion tonnes in 2019 compared to 2018, whereas outwards movements decreased by 1.5 % to 1.4 billion tonnes. Inward movements accounted for almost 60 % of the total tonnes of goods handled in the EU ports (Figure 4). 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 Cyprus had the highest shares of unloaded goods in 2019, with respective shares of 88 % and 75 % of the total tonnes of seaborne goods recorded as inward movements to their ports. In contrast, the three Baltic countries, Bulgaria, Finland, Romania, the EEA country Norway and the candidate country Montenegro all had more outward movements of goods than inwards movements.
Liquid bulk made up 36.6 % of the total cargo handled in the main EU ports
Liquid bulk goods accounted for 36.6 % of the total cargo handled in the main EU ports in 2019 (Figure 5), followed by containerised goods (24.4 %), dry bulk goods (22.2 %), and goods transported on Ro-Ro mobile units (11.1 %). The largest volumes of liquid bulk goods were handled in the Netherlands (276 million tonnes), followed by Italy (201 million tonnes) and Spain (187 million tonnes). Croatia recorded the highest share of liquid bulk goods as a percentage of the total tonnages passing through its main ports in 2019 (54.6 %), mainly reflecting large volumes of inward movements of crude oil from Russia and Turkey.
With 136 million tonnes, Dutch ports also handled the largest volumes of dry bulk goods in the EU in 2019, followed by Spain with 97 million tonnes. Even so, the tonnages of dry bulk goods handled in both the Netherlands and Spain in 2019 were lower than the 185 million tonnes reported by Turkey. Latvia had the highest share of dry bulk goods as a percentage of the total tonnages in 2019 (57.7 %), mainly reflecting large volumes of outward movements of coal from its ports.
Containers were the dominant type of cargo handled in German, Belgian and Slovenian ports in 2019, with shares of 42.7 %, 42.4 % and 40.5 % respectively of the total cargo passing through the ports of the two countries. The largest volumes of containerised goods, however, were handled in Spanish and Dutch ports, with 158 million tonnes and 134 million tonnes, respectively. The two top container countries were followed by Germany with 126 million tonnes and Belgium with 118 million tonnes of containerised goods.
The share of Ro-Ro mobile units in the total tonnage of goods was the highest for Ireland (31.9 %), Denmark (28.7 %) and Sweden (27.6 %), reflecting the importance of Ro-Ro ferry traffic in the seaborne transport of these countries. In tonnage terms, Italy (97 million tonnes) recorded the largest EU volumes of goods transported on Ro-Ro mobile units in 2019. However, these volumes were lower than tonnage of Ro-Ro mobile units recorded in the United Kingdom (105 million tonnes).
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg stayed top three ports in 2019
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg, all located on the North Sea coast, maintained their positions as Europe's top three ports in 2019, 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 39 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in the main ports of the reporting countries in 2019. The largest port in Europe, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, on its own accounted for just above 9 % of the total tonnage handled in the countries reporting maritime freight data to Eurostat (Figure 6).
The 7 largest cargo ports in Europe remained the same in 2019 compared to 2018. Among these ports, the tonnes of goods handled in 2019 reported by Rotterdam and Hamburg decreased by 0.4 % compared to 2018, Marseille by 2.1 % and Izmit by 1.5 % . In contrast, Amsterdam recorded a substantial increase of 4.4 % from 2018, while Antwerpen increased by 1.0 %, and Algeciras by 1.4 %.
Among the other top 20 cargo ports, the port of Turkish port of Aliaga recorded the largest growth with 21.9 % compared to 2018, followed by Piraeus (+11.6 %) and another Turkish port Botas (+10.2 %). On the other hand, the ports of Le Havre (-7.3 %), Bremerhaven (-7.0 %), Genova (-3.6 %) and Immingham (-2.8 %), reported decreases in port activity in 2019. The Polish port of Gdansk entered the top 20 European ports in 2019 with a 7.3 % increase compared to 2018. As a consequence, the Norwegian port Bergen lost its position among the top 20 European ports.
While inward activity was prevalent in most of the top 20 ports, the port of Botas handled substantial outward movements (88 % of the total tonnage handled in the port in 2019) (Figure 7). In addition, Bremerhaven and Valencia recorded slightly more outward than inward movements of containerised goods.
The most specialised of the top 20 cargo ports in handling containers were Bremerhaven, Piraeus (both 88 % of the total tonnage handled in the port in 2019) and Valencia (76 %); the most specialised in handling liquid bulk goods was Botas (91 %); the most specialised in handling dry bulk goods was Iskendur-Hatay (73 %)(Figure 8).
All in all, 11 of the top 20 cargo ports of the reporting countries, in 2019 were located on the Mediterranean, seven on the North Sea coast of Europe, one port on the Atlantic coast and one port in the Baltic Sea (Map 1). The composition of the national port infrastructure will sometimes determine whether a country is represented on the top 20 list of cargo ports or not. Denmark and Finland, for instance, are countries with a large number of medium-sized ports, all handling volumes of goods lower than the 46 million annual 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 data in Table 1 and Figure 9 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).
At 3 billion tonnes, the EU seaborne transport of goods remained stable between 2018 and 2019 (+0.2 %) (Table 1). The majority of these goods (71 %) were transported to or from ports outside the EU (international extra EU-27 transport), making maritime transport the most common 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-27 transport) made up 19 % of the maritime transport of goods in 2019, while transport of goods between national ports made up 8 % of the total EU maritime transport (Figure 9).
In countries with long shorelines or a large number of islands, like Italy, Greece, Denmark as well as Norway, the share of national seaborne transport tends to be relatively high (from 15 % to 26 % in 2019). Countries like Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta on the other hand, have high shares of international intra-EU transport (above 54 % in 2019), because their main maritime freight transport partners are found within the EU. Other countries, like Romania, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Belgium, Slovenia, France, Spain and Croatia (above 70 % in 2019), have high shares of extra-EU transport, based on their geographical position or the "deep sea" nature of the transport activities prevailing in their main ports.
Map 2 illustrates the largest maritime transport flows between the EU and the main international partners. As shown in the map, all of the EU’s top 10 maritime flows of goods in 2019 were inward flows, with the exception of the outward flows from the United Kingdom. In declining order, these were the inward flows of goods from the Baltic Sea area of Russia (6.0 % of the total extra-EU seaborne transport), the outward flow to the United Kingdom and the inward flow from the East Coast of the USA (each 4.9 %), the inward flows from the United Kingdom (4.8 %), Norway (4.1 %), Turkey and the Black Sea area of Russia (each 3.7%), Brazil (3.5 %), China (3.0 %) and Egypt (2.5 %). The 11th, 12th and 13th largest seaborne transport flows in 2019 were the outward flows of goods to the East Coast of the USA (2.4 %), China (2.3 %) and Turkey (2.2 %).
Volume of containers handled in European ports
In 2019, 97 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) were handled in the main EU ports (Figure 10), comparable to the levels observed in 2018 (-0.2 % compared to 2018). When looking at loaded containers, the decrease in 2019 was more substantial (-1.3 %). In contrast, handling of empty containers had an increase (+5.2 %).
Spain reported the largest volumes of containers handled in Europe in 2019. At 17 million TEUs, the volume of containers handled in Spanish ports represented 18.0 % of the EU total in 2019 (Figure 11). Spain was followed by Germany (15.6 % of the EU total), the Netherlands (14.4 %), Belgium (12.6 %) and Italy (11.5 %). All together, these five countries had more than 70 % of the containers handled in main EU ports in 2019.
All countries reported more loaded containers than empty containers. The share of empty containers handled was the lowest in Italy (7 % of the containers handled in the main ports of the country) and the highest in Cyprus and Finland (both 35 %).
With 13.5 million TEUs handled, Rotterdam was Europe’s largest container port in 2019 (Figure 13). Rotterdam was followed by Antwerpen with 11.7 million TEUs and Hamburg with 9.3 million TEUs handled in total. All in all, eight of the top 20 container ports recorded decreases in the number of TEUs handled compared to 2018. In relative terms, the largest decrease was seen for Gioia Tauro (-25.6 %), followed by Genova (-14.8 %) and Bremerhaven (-10.9 %). The largest relative increases were recorded by Piraeus (+15.6 %) and Mersin (+11.5 %).
All top 20 ports reported more loaded containers than empty containers. The share of handled empty containers was the lowest in Genova (2 % of the containers handled in the main ports of the country) and the highest in Felixstowe (32 %).
Maritime vessels calling in the main European ports
In 2019, the number of vessels calling (handling freight or embarking and disembarking passengers) in main EU ports is estimated at above almost 2.2 million, an increase of 1.6 % from the previous year (Table 2). In the same period, the estimated gross tonnage (GT) of the vessels calling in EU ports remained stable at 16.2 billion GT (+0.1 % from the previous year) (Table 3). During the same period, the average size of vessels calling in the main EU ports decreased by 1.5 % to almost 7 300 GT in 2019 (Figure 15).
Italy had the highest number of port calls in 2019 (473 000 vessels), followed by Greece (464 000 vessels), Denmark (322 000 vessels) and Croatia (285 000 vessels). Italy also recorded the largest gross tonnage of vessels calling at its main ports in 2019 with 2.9 billion GT, followed by Spain (2.4 billion GT).
Vessels in the category “Cargo, non-specialised” (which includes Ro-Ro vessels) made the highest share of calls in main EU ports in 2019 (72 % of the vessels), followed by passenger vessels (16 %), liquid bulk vessels (4 %) and container vessels (3 %) (Figure 16).
Source data for tables and graphs
This article presents the trends in freight transport and vessel traffic in European Union (EU) ports and also includes figures for Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, 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-27 aggregates in the statistics 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). The EEA country Liechtenstein has no maritime ports. Montenegro and Turkey provide data as candidate countries.
“Main ports” are ports handling more than one 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.
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%.
Explanatory notes for countries are available in the metadata on the Eurostat website.
Starting from 2011, the figures for Spain include data for a number of minor regional ports outside the state-controlled port system. Montenegro started to report data on seaborne transport in 2012. Data have been partially estimated by Eurostat for a number of French ports for the period 2009-2016. Detailed data on main ports are not available for Iceland.
Type of cargo (Figures 5 and 8):
- Liquid bulk: liquefied gas, crude oil, oil products, other liquid bulk goods.
- Dry bulk: ores, coal, agricultural products (e.g. grain, soya, tapioca), other dry bulk goods.
- Large containers: 20 ft freight units, 40 ft freight units, freight units > 20 ft and < 40 ft, freight units > 40 ft.
- Ro-Ro mobile units:
a) Mobile self-propelled units: road goods vehicles and accompanying trailers, passenger cars, motorcycles and accompanying trailers/caravans, passenger buses, trade vehicles (including import/export motor vehicles), live animals on the hoof, other mobile self-propelled units.
b) Mobile non-self-propelled units: unaccompanied road goods trailers and semi-trailers, unaccompanied caravans and other road, agricultural and industrial vehicles, rail wagons, shipborne port-to-port trailers and shipborne barges engaged in goods transport, other mobile non-self-propelled units
- Other cargo: forestry products, iron and steel products, other general cargo.
The category “large containers” includes containers having a length of 20 feet or more. Smaller containers are included in the category “other cargo”. As a general rule, the container figures are limited to lift-on lift-off containers (Lo-Lo).
Transport calculation (Table 1 and Figure 9): In order to estimate maritime transport of goods between ports, the issue of "double counting" (the transport of the same goods being declared by both the port of loading (as outward movements) and the port of unloading (as inward movements) has to be addressed. Generally, when both the port of loading and the port of unloading are situated within the same statistical aggregate, only the incoming flows of goods declared by ports are summed up to determine the total maritime transport within the aggregate ("elimination of double counting"). The algorithm for the elimination of double counting is applied at statistical port level. Thus, the total maritime transport per country excludes the double counting of maritime transport within the country. Similarly, the total maritime transport for the EU excludes the double counting of national and international intra-EU maritime transport (see metadata on the Eurostat website for more information).
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.
Type of vessel (Figure 16):
- Liquid bulk: oil tanker, chemical tanker, LG tanker, tanker barge, other tanker.
- Dry bulk: bulk/oil carrier, bulk carrier.
- Container: full container.
- Cargo, specialised: barge carrier, chemical carrier, irradiated fuel, livestock carrier, vehicle carrier, other specialised.
- Cargo, non-specialised: reefer, Ro-Ro passenger, Ro-Ro container, other Ro-Ro cargo, combination carrier general cargo/passenger, combination carrier general cargo/container, single-decker, multi-decker.
- Passenger: passenger (excluding cruise passenger vessels).
- Cruise passenger: cruise ships only.
- Offshore activities: offshore supply.
- Other: dry cargo barges, tugs, miscellaneous, unknown type of vessel.
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 Delegated Decision (EU) 2018/1007 of 25 April 2018 supplementing Directive 2009/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the list of ports and repealing Commission Decision 2008/861/EC (Text with EEA relevance.) OJ L 180, 17.7.2018, p. 29–71
- 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)
- Maritime transport (ESMS metadata file — mar_esms)
- Reference manual on maritime transport statistics
- Glossary for transport statistics - 5th edition - 2019