Maritime ports freight and passenger statistics
From Statistics Explained
- Data from February 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article analyses the latest statistical data on freight handling and passenger traffic in ports in the European Union (EU), Iceland, Norway, Montenegro and Turkey. Please note that the 2012 figures for France in this article are provisional and are likely to be revised.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 1.1 Downturn in goods and passengers passing through EU ports
- 1.2 The Netherlands largest maritime freight transport country in the EU
- 1.3 Liquid bulk accounted for 39 % of total tonnage handled in EU ports
- 1.4 Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg stay as top ports
- 1.5 More maritime freight transport with extra-EU partners
- 1.6 Continuing decline in seaborne passenger transport
- 1.7 Italy and Greece leading in maritime passenger transport
- 1.8 Larger vessels calling in the main EU ports
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
Main statistical findings
Downturn in goods and passengers passing through EU ports
The total gross weight of goods handled in EU ports is estimated at 3.7 billion tonnes in 2012, a decrease of 1.0 % compared with 2011. After a period of continued year-on-year increases in the volume of goods handled in EU ports from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2012, the apparent recovery in EU port activity came to an end in the second quarter of 2012 (Figure 1). With consecutive year-on-year decreases in the three last quarters of 2012, the overall port activity in the EU was slightly lower in 2012 than the level recorded 7 years earlier, in 2005 (Table 1).
The Netherlands remained the largest maritime freight transport country in Europe in 2012, while Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg maintained their positions as the three largest EU ports. The 20 largest ports accounted for 37 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in the countries reporting data in 2012. The port of Rotterdam on its own accounted for about 9 % of the total (Table 3).
The number of passengers passing through EU ports is estimated at 398 million in 2012, a decrease of 3.5 % compared with 2011. This fall in EU passenger transport is mainly caused by reductions in the numbers of passengers embarking and disembarking in Italy and Greece, the two leading EU countries for seaborne passenger transport (Table 6).
The Netherlands largest maritime freight transport country in the EU
The Netherlands has remained the largest maritime freight transport country in Europe since 2010. At 543 million tonnes, the volume of seaborne goods handled in Dutch ports in 2012 represented 14.6 % of the EU-28 total. The Netherlands was followed by the United Kingdom (UK) and Italy, with shares of 13.4 % and 12.8 %, respectively. Spain remained the fourth largest and France the fifth largest EU maritime freight transport country in 2012. Ports in the candidate country Turkey handled 375 million tonnes of goods in 2012, placing it between Spain and France in terms of total volume of seaborne goods.
Compared with 2011, the largest increases in port activity were recorded in Spain (13.1 %) and Latvia (8.5 %), while the largest decreases in port activity were recorded in Croatia (-13.2 %), Estonia (-10.3 %) and Finland (-8.9 %). Inward movement of goods to the EU-28 countries decreased by 2.3 % in 2012 and accounted for about 61 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in EU-28 ports. Much of this inward tonnage is made up of considerable inward volumes of liquid bulk goods, such as crude oil and oil products.
In general, more seaborne goods are unloaded than loaded in the majority of EU countries. Cyprus had the highest share of total tonnage unloaded in 2012, followed by Malta and the Netherlands. However, for Romania and Bulgaria (agricultural products), the three Baltic countries (oil products) and the EEA country Norway (crude oil), outward movement of goods prevailed.
Liquid bulk accounted for 39 % of total tonnage handled in EU ports
Liquid bulk goods accounted for 39 % of the total tonnage of cargo handled in the main EU-28 ports in 2012, followed by dry bulk goods, containerised goods and Ro-Ro mobile units (Table 2). The largest tonnage of liquid bulk goods was handled in Dutch ports (274 million tonnes), followed by the UK (211 million tonnes) and Italy (196 million tonnes). Estonia recorded the highest share of liquid bulk goods as a percentage of the total tonnage handled in its main ports (65 %), reflecting large volumes of outward movements of oil products from Russia. Dutch ports’ handling of dry bulk goods was by far the largest in the EU in 2012 (131 million tonnes), but lower than the candidate country Turkey (148 million tonnes).
Container transport was the dominant type of cargo in Germany (44 %) and Belgium (42 %), but the largest volumes of goods in containers were handled in Spain (133 million tonnes) and Germany (128 million tonnes). The share of Ro-Ro units in the total tonnage of goods was highest for Denmark and Sweden (28 % and 27 %, respectively). However, in tonnage terms, the United Kingdom (94 million tonnes) and Italy (86 million tonnes) had the largest quantities of goods transported on Ro-Ro mobile units in 2012.
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg stay as top ports
Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg, all located on the North Sea coast, consolidated their positions as Europe's top three ports in 2012, both for the gross weight of goods (Table 3) and the volume of containers handled (Table 4).
As in 2011, the 20 largest ports accounted for about 37 % of the total tonnage of goods handled in the countries reporting data in 2012 (EU-28, Norway, Turkey and Montenegro). Rotterdam on its own accounted for just above 9 % of the total port activity in 2012. However, Europe’s largest port saw an overall fall of 0.2 % in the gross weight of goods handled from 2011 to 2012, despite a 9 % increase in the volumes of liquid bulk goods. Most of the cargo handling in Rotterdam involves liquid bulk goods such as oil and chemicals and dry bulk goods such as coal and ores.
Among the other top cargo ports, Antwerpen and Hamburg also reported falls in the total volume of goods handled in 2012 (of -2.4 % and -0.7 %, respectively). In contrast, Aliaga in Turkey reported the largest growth in gross weight of goods handled (+13.2 %), followed by Izmit also in Turkey (+10.2 %) and Algeciras in Spain (+8.5 %). The UK ports of Milford Haven and London both reported substantial decreases in port activity in 2012 (-18.2 % and -10.4 %, respectively), mainly due to reduced tonnages of liquid bulk goods (Table 3).
Rotterdam is also Europe’s largest container port, handling almost 11 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2012, a fall of 3.5 % compared with 2011 (Table 4). The port of Hamburg handled almost 9 million TEUs in 2012, keeping its position as the second largest container port in Europe measured by the number of containers. After a recovery in recent years, the port of Piraeus in Greece continued to report a significant increase in the volume of containers in 2012 (Table 4).
The most specialised of the top 20 cargo ports are Milford Haven in the UK, Bergen in Norway and Botas in Turkey (mostly liquid bulk goods), as well as Bremerhaven in Germany (mostly containers). While inward activity is prevalent in most of the top 20 ports, the ports of Bergen and Botas both handle substantial outward movements of crude oil. Bremerhaven and the Spanish port of Valencia also handle slightly more outwards movements of containerised goods than inwards movements.
Nine of the top 20 ports in 2012 are located on the North Sea coast, with eight in the Mediterranean (Map 1). The remaining three are located on the Atlantic coast, with two in the Channel. The composition of its port infrastructure will sometimes determine if a country is represented on the top 20 list of cargo ports or not. Denmark and Greece, for instance, are two countries with a high number of medium size ports. However, there are no ports in either of these two countries above the 40 million tonnes threshold required to make the top 20 list.
More maritime freight transport 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 (inwards movements plus outwards movements), but estimate the seaborne transport of goods between main ports and their partner ports (see data sources and availability).
In total, EU seaborne transport decreased by 0.1 % from 2011 to 2012. However, within this slight decrease at the total level there were substantial structural variations. While international intra-EU transport and national seaborne transport fell from 2011 to 2012 (by -1.4 % and -6.6 %, respectively), international extra-EU seaborne transport increased by 1.4 %. All in all, 64 % of the EU-28 seaborne goods were transported to or from ports outside the EU in 2012, making maritime transport by far the most important mode for long distance transport of goods to or from the EU, in tonnage terms.
In countries with a geography characterised by long shorelines or a large number of islands, like Greece, Italy, Denmark and Norway, the share of national seaborne transport is naturally high (20-30 %). Countries, like Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Finland and Sweden, on the other hand, have the highest shares of international intra-EU transport (more than 65 %), because their main maritime freight transport partners are found within the EU. Other countries, like Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the Netherlands, have high shares of extra-EU transport (above 70 %), based either on their geographical position or the "deep sea" nature of the transport activities prevailing in their main ports.
Map 2 illustrates the eight largest maritime transport flows to or from the EU. As shown in the map, all of the top eight transport flows in 2012 were inward flows of goods, from the Baltic Sea region of Russia, Brazil, the East Coast of the United States of America (USA), Norway, the Black Sea region of Russia, Egypt, China and Turkey, respectively. In comparison, the ninth largest seaborne transport flow in 2012 was the outwards flow of goods from the EU to the East Coast of the United States of America.
Continuing decline in seaborne passenger transport
Seaborne transport of passengers in Europe continued its decline in 2012 (Table 6). The total number of passengers passing through EU-28 ports in 2012 is estimated at 398 million (inwards movements plus outwards movements), a drop of 3.5 % compared to the previous year.
Unlike goods movements (where broadly 60 % of goods are unloaded and 40 % loaded), the difference between the numbers of passengers disembarking ("inwards") and embarking ("outwards") in European ports is small. This reflects the fact that seaborne passenger transport in Europe is mainly carried by national or intra-EU ferry connections, with the same passengers counted twice in the statistics (when they embark and when they disembark).
Close to 77 million passengers were embarked and disembarked in Italian ports in 2012, confirming Italy as the leading seaborne passenger transport country in Europe. Italy was followed by Greece, with 73 million passengers. However, both the main maritime passenger countries recorded significant decreases in the number of passengers passing through their ports in 2012 (-6.3 % and -7.3 %, respectively).
While cruise passengers represented only 3.6 % of the total number of passengers in EU-28 ports in 2012, they are important to the ports they visit. The five countries Italy, Spain, the UK, Germany and Greece accounted for more than 85 % of the total cruise passengers reported.
The top 20 passenger ports accounted for about 38 % of the total number of passengers embarking and disembarking in the countries reporting data in 2012 (Table 7), a slight increase from 2011. Dover in the UK, situated on the Channel, remained the largest passenger port in Europe in 2012, despite a decrease of 6.5% in the number of seaborne passengers passing through the port facilities. The Spanish port of Algeciras recorded the largest increase in number of passengers in 2012 (+7.7 %), while the Greek port of Piraeus recorded the largest decrease compared with the previous year (-13.7 %).
The figures in Table 7 show that some ports have experienced quite substantial decreases in the number of seaborne passengers over time. These changes are typically caused by openings of new bridge connections and subsequent closure of ferry links. For example, the number of passengers using the cross Channel ferries has been affected by increased use of the Channel tunnel and rapid growth in low cost flights.
Italy and Greece leading in maritime passenger transport
Table 8 shows the breakdown of seaborne passenger transport (excluding cruise passengers) between national, international intra-EU and international extra-EU transport for each reporting country. Unlike the statistics shown in tables 6 and 7, these figures do not reflect the total embarkation and disembarkation of passengers in ports, but estimate the transport of passengers between ports (see also data sources and availability).
Seaborne passenger transport with the main EU-28 ports decreased by 3.9 % in 2012, compared with the previous year. This sustained the fall in European maritime transport of passengers apparent in recent years and has mainly reflected the decreased transport of passengers to or from ports in a number of the largest maritime passenger transport countries, such as Italy, Greece, the UK and France.
The number of seaborne passengers transported to or from the main ports of Italy fell by 8.2 % to about 38 million passengers in 2012, while the volume of seaborne passenger transport with Greek ports fell by 8.6 % to about 36 million passengers. France, the UK and several other countries also reported significant decreases in maritime transport of passengers in 2012, while only six countries recorded increases compared to 2011. The most noticeable increase was reported by Estonia (+4.6 % to 11 million passengers).
Almost 60 % of the seaborne passenger transport in the EU countries is carried out between national ports. In general, countries with busy ferry connections and well-populated islands tend to have both a large volume of maritime passenger transport and a high share of national passenger transport by sea. This applies to the two leading maritime passenger transport countries, Italy and Greece, as well as countries like Malta, Portugal and Croatia.
On the other hand, countries with major regular ferry connections to other EU countries, like Estonia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Finland and the UK, naturally have high shares of international intra-EU transport. As in previous years, Spain and Denmark recorded the highest shares of extra-EU passenger transport in 2012. This is mainly due to the geographical position of the countries, with Spain having links with Morocco and Denmark with Norway.
Larger vessels calling in the main EU ports
The number of vessel calls in the main EU-28 ports (excluding French ports) was just below 2.2 million in 2012, decreasing by 3.5 % compared to 2011 (Table 9). With the corresponding gross vessel tonnage (GT) falling by 3.0 %, the trend towards a slightly larger average size of vessels making port calls in recent years continued. The average size of vessels calling in EU ports in 2012 was just below 6 800 GT.
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 frame 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), which is a recast of the original Council Directive 95/64/EC of 8 December 1995.
EU-28 aggregates 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). Liechtenstein has no maritime ports. Montenegro and Turkey provide data on a voluntary basis 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 countries are available in the metadata on the Eurostat website.
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%. As data are not available for all Icelandic ports (IS) for 2007-2011, a special aggregate EEA-IS+TR is used in some tables in this article to facilitate the comparability of certain time series.
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. The 2012 figures for France in this table are provisional and 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. The 2012 figures for France in these tables are provisional Eurostat estimates based on partial French data and 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 outwards – and the port of unloading/ disembarking – as inwards) 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. The 2012 figures for France in these tables are provisional Eurostat estimates based on partial French data and are likely to be revised.
Table 6: Data include (cruise and non-cruise) passengers starting and ending a voyage. As a general rule, cruise passengers on excursion (transit) 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 and Portugal only provide the number of non-cruise passengers (“ferry passengers”). 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. The 2012 figures for France in this table are provisional and 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. The 2012 figures for French ports in these tables are provisional Eurostat estimates based on partial French data and are likely to be revised.
Table 8: See above (Table 5).
Table 9: The detailed data necessary for the compilation of this table is 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 is based on data collected within the frame 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 EP and of the Council of 14 April 2010, OJ L 94, 15.4.2010, p. 33-40
- Regulation 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:
- 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
- Coastal region statistics
- 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 - data aggregated at standard regional levels (NUTS) (mar_rg)
Methodology / Metadata
- Maritime transport (ESMS metadata file - mar_esms)