Commercial seaports are large transshipment hubs that integrate all possible modes of transport – rail, road and sea. Meet the five largest ports in Europe that handle the most freight.
They are huge, handle virtually all types of ocean-going vessels and provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of people. They are also extremely important for the economy of not only the countries in which they operate, but of all the countries from and to which the goods handled there come. We are talking about the biggest seaports in Europe. Which of them carry the most cargo?
The largest commercial seaport in Europe and one of the largest in the world is located on the North Sea in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Between 1962 and 1986 it held the title of the busiest port in the world. The port of Rotterdam is located in the Rhine-Meuse delta and covers an area of 105 km2. It can receive all types of ocean-going vessels and handles basically any type of cargo. It provides indirect and direct employment for about 385,000 people. In 2018, it accounted for more than 9% of the total tonnage handled at European ports that report their statistics to Eurostat. In 2019, it handled a total of 469 million tons of cargo and cleared nearly 30,000 sea vessels. Nearly half of the goods handled at the port are liquid bulk cargoes. The second most handled are large containers.
The second largest port in Europe is Antwerp, located in Belgium. It covers an area of 24,000 football fields, provides work directly for 60,000 people (indirectly for 143,000), and has 900 companies on its premises. In 2018, the port handled 235 million tons of cargo. More than half of these were containers, second only to liquid bulk commodities. Although connected to the North Sea, the port itself is located tens of kilometers inland. It is its inland location, which shortens the route to the final destinations of the goods transport, that mainly determines its popularity. Antwerp is reached by a dense network of land routes, waterways and rail connections. On average, 39 seagoing ships, 142 barges and 130 freight trains check in at the port every day.
The third highest-capacity European seaport is Germany’s Hamburg, located on the Elbe River, also known as the “Gateway to the World”. Like the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, it is located on the North Sea, although it is 110 km from the mouth of the river. It covers an area of 74 km2. It is an expanded port complex with extensive warehousing and transhipment facilities. In 2019, Hamburg handled 136 million tons of cargo. Most of these – more than 60 percent – are large containers. Dry bulk commodities are the second largest.
Next on the list of Europe’s largest ports is the Dutch port of Amsterdam. It is an important transshipment center that dates back to the 12th century. Today, it is connected to the sea via the North Sea Canal and has an area of about 1,600 hectares, consisting of waterways, land, quays, roads and railroads. It provides jobs for nearly 70,000 people. In 2019, the Port of Amsterdam handled 87 million tons of cargo – most of it bulk. The port’s annual revenue is 169 million euros (2019 figures)
Last on the list of busiest European seaports is Algeciras, located on the Mediterranean Sea. The port is located in Spain’s Andalusia and serves as not only a commercial port, but also a fishing and passenger port. It’s extensive port infrastructure is spread throughout the Bay of Gibraltar. In 2019, the port handled 109 million tons of cargo. More than half of these were large containers (totaling more than 5 million TEUS), with liquid bulk commodities coming in second. The port also handled more than 6 million passengers during the same period