Maritime passenger statistics
Data from December 2020.
Planned update: November 2021.
Seaborne passengers embarked and disembarked in all ports, EU-27, 2005-2019
This article presents the latest statistical data on passenger 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.
Number of seaborne passengers reaches 419 million
The number of passengers passing through EU ports increased by 1.8 % between 2018 and 2019, reaching a peak of 418.8 million (Figure 1). After falling regularly between 2008 and 2014, with an exception in 2013 (+0.3 % compared to 2012), the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports recovered in the last five years to reach higher levels than in 2008, which was the previous peak observed (+2.3 % in 2019 compared with 2008).
Unlike movements of goods, where broadly 60 % of goods are unloaded and 40 % loaded in the EU ports, the difference between the number of passengers disembarking ("inwards") and embarking ("outwards") in EU ports is generally 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 port throughput statistics (once when they embark the ferry in one EU port and once when they disembark the same ferry in another EU port).
At 86.5 million and 73.9 million seaborne passengers, respectively, Italian and Greek ports accounted for a combined share of 38.5 % of the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports in 2019 (Figure 2). As a consequence, Italy and Greece remained the main countries in terms of EU seaborne passenger transport. The two leading countries were followed by Denmark with 44.2 million passengers embarking and disembarking in 2019, Spain (34.6 million) and Croatia (34.1 million).
Compared to the previous year, the largest relative increases in seaborne passengers transport were recorded by Cyprus (+89.3 % from a low base), Bulgaria (+60.9 % from a low base), Portugal (+8.6 %), Spain and Slovenia (both +6.3 %) and Lithuania (+6.2 %) in 2019. The candidate country Turkey also registered a substantial growth in 2019 compared to the previous year (+16.6 %). In contrast, only four EU Member States recorded decreases in 2019 compared to 2018. The largest decrease was observed in France (-4.1 %), followed by Belgium (-3.1 %), Ireland (-2.3 %) and Finland (-0.2 %). The candidate country Montenegro and the United Kingdom also registered substantial falls in 2019 compared to 2018 (-9.9 % and -4.4 % respectively).
Number of seaborne cruise passengers increased to 15 million
The number of cruise passengers passing through EU ports increased by 8.6 % between 2018 and 2019, to 14.9 million. Although cruise passengers made up only 3.6 % of the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports in 2019, these passengers play an important role in the ports and countries where the cruise traffic is concentrated. Close to 78 % of the total number of cruise passengers embarking and disembarking in EU ports in 2019 did so in the ports of one of the three countries Italy, Spain, Germany (Figure 3). Cruise passengers on day excursions in EU ports are not included in these figures.
With 5.0 million cruise passengers, Italy was the main contributor to the EU seaborne cruise passenger traffic (34 %). Italy was followed by Spain with 3.9 million cruise passengers embarking and disembarking in 2019 and Germany (2.6 million). The United Kingdom also registered a substantial number of cruise passengers with 2.2 million.
Compared to the previous year, only two EU Member States recorded decreases in 2019 compared to 2018: Belgium (-1.4 %) and France (-1.1 %). In contrast, many EU Member States registered substantial increases in 2019 compared to 2018. The three main countries in terms of cruise passengers reported relatively substantial increases: Germany (+13.1 %), Spain (+10.4 %) and Italy (+4.0 %).
Messina was the largest European passenger port in 2019
The top 20 passenger ports accounted for close to 36 % of the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in the reporting countries in 2019. The port of Dover, with a 7.0 % decrease in 2019 compared to 2018, lost its position as the largest European passenger port to the benefit of Messina and Helsinki. Messina, which registered a 10.0 % increase in the number of passengers embarking and disembarking from 2018 to 2019 took over the first place, while Helsinki remained in second place, putting Dover in third place (Figure 4).
The top 20 passenger ports were the same in 2018 and 2019. However, the position of these ports in the ranking changed for 16 of them. In particular, the port of Napoli gained 5 positions in the ranking, after a 31.0 % increase in 2019 compared to 2018, putting it in 7th place. After Napoli, the port of Reggio di Calabria recorded the largest relative increase between 2018 and 2019 (+16.6 %). In contrast, in addition to Dover, five other ports registered a decrease in 2019 compared to 2018; the most noticeable being for Calais (-7.0 %).
Most EU seaborne passenger transport is within national borders
Table 1 and Figure 5 show the breakdown of seaborne passenger (excluding cruise passengers) transport between national, international intra-EU and international extra-EU transport for each reporting country. Unlike the other statistics presented in this article, 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 within the same statistical aggregate is excluded in these figures (see data sources).
At 220 million, the EU seaborne transport of passengers (excluding cruise passengers) remained stable between 2018 and 2019 (+0.1 %) (Table 1). Compared to the previous year, only five EU Member States recorded decreases in 2019 compared to 2018: the most noticeable being for Belgium (-6.3 %) and France (-4.8 %). The candidate country Montenegro registered a substantial fall of 10.2 %. In contrast, the main growths from 2018 to 2019 were recorded for Lithuania (+6.2 %) and Portugal (+6.0 %). The candidate country Turkey also registered a substantial increase of 29.8 %.
The majority of the seaborne passenger (excluding cruise passengers) transport in the EU is carried out between ports located in the same country (63 %), reflecting the dominant role of national ferry services in the EU seaborne passenger (excluding cruise passengers) transport (Figure 5). In general, countries with busy ferry connections to and from well-populated islands will have both a large volume of seaborne passenger (excluding cruise passengers) transport and a high share of national maritime passenger (excluding cruise passengers) transport. This applies to the two leading maritime passenger countries, Italy and Greece, as well as countries like Portugal, Croatia and Spain.
Countries with ferry connections to other EU countries, such as Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Estonia and Denmark, naturally have high shares of international intra-EU transport. Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Spain recorded the highest shares of extra-EU seaborne passenger (excluding cruise passengers) transport in 2019, with Spain having ferry links with Morocco and the other countries with the United Kingdom.
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 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.
Figures 1, 2 and 4: Data include (cruise and non-cruise) passengers starting and ending a voyage. Cruise passengers on excursion in ports (cruise transit) are excluded. Starting from 2011, the figures for Spain include data for a number of minor regional ports outside the state-controlled port system. Starting from 2018, the figures for Spain include data for a number ports that were not reported in the previous years. Netherlands only provide the number of non-cruise passengers (“ferry passengers”). The passenger figures for Portugal do not include cruise passengers until 2011. Passenger data for Norway cover international traffic only.
Figure 3: Cruise passengers on excursion in ports (cruise transit) are not included.
Table 1 and Figure 5: In order to estimate maritime transport of passengers between ports, the issue of "double counting" (the transport of the same passengers being declared by both the port of embarkation (as outward movements) and the port of disembarkation (as inward movements) has to be addressed. Generally, when both the port of embarkation and the port of disembarkation are situated within the same statistical aggregate, only the incoming flows of passengers 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). 2016 data for Spanish ports include cruise passengers. Starting from 2018, the figures for Spain include data for a number ports that were not reported in the previous years. French data for 2014 and 2015 contain Eurostat estimates. Passenger transport data for Malta do not include international transport to/from the port of Valletta. Passenger data for Norway cover international traffic only. Data are not available for Iceland.
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.
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