The 5 most important ports in Europe

European ports are a gateway for the entry and exit of goods from the continent and are also an important economic engine for the community economy.

Do you want to know which are the most important? These are the 5 European ports with the most traffic, considered “gates of Europe” for maritime traffic.

These are the 5 main European ports

Although there are more well-placed European ports in the international ranking, these are the 5 that have had the most traffic and the best economic results in the last year.

1. Rotterdam (Netherlands)

The first port in Europe is also one of the most important logistics centers on the continent.

The port of Rotterdam is more than 40 km long, covers 12,000 hectares and receives around 220,000 ships each year. It is located in the Dutch city of the same name, on the North Sea, at a strategic point between the Rhine, the most important river in Europe, with almost 900 navigable km, and the Meuse, the second river in the Netherlands.

The port, located in the estuary formed by both rivers, is therefore a first-rate maritime commercial vortex, which has been ranked among the top ten ports in the world for years.

Rotterdam is a deep-water port (more than 20 meters) that allows the mooring of deep-draft ships.

It is connected to more than 1,000 international ports, and is chosen by many shipping companies as the first port of call for ships en route to Europe, and the last port for many large container ships (over 24,000 TEUs, or standard containers) leaving the continent to other international ports.

Its terminals are considered to be among the most modern in the world, with a high level of automation, and the ability to quickly manage all types of cargo, and all services, such as storage, container cleaning, transshipment of hazardous substances, etc.

Intermodal connections greatly facilitate intercontinental cargo flows, and make it the majority entry to the European market, of more than 500 million potential consumers.

In addition to all this, the port of Rotterdam is in itself a tourist attraction and receives thousands of visitors throughout the year. There are many viewpoints with spectacular views of the city and the sea along its 40 km length, and it can be explored on foot or by bike.

Many tourists come to FutureLand, an initiative of the port to offer guided excursions, events and, above all, the possibility of seeing the impressive port facilities and large ships up close.

2. Antwerp (Belgium)

The location of the port of Antwerp, on the estuary of the Scheldt River, is somewhat exceptional. It is the one that goes further into the continent, 80 km from the coast. It is reached by the navigable channels that connect the North Sea with the city of Antwerp or Antwerpen.

For this reason, and because of the network of road and rail connections, it is the port of choice for those who want quick and easy access to inland Europe.

Sustained growth over the last decade has made it the second most important port on the continent. It has a total area of ​​11,246 hectares, houses a thousand companies and maintains an annual growth of over 4%.

It is one of the country’s economic engines, with the capacity to generate and maintain more than 140,000 direct jobs.

3. Hamburg (Germany)

The third European port is also the largest port in Germany.  The port of Hamburg, or Hamburger Hafen, is located on the banks of the Elbe River. It is a port with a historical tradition, whose commercial operation is registered since its inauguration, in the year 1189.

Today, it has a total of 43 kilometers of docks, four state-of-the-art container terminals, three cruise terminals and receives some 7,500 ship calls per year.

In 2020, it handled more than 125 million tons of cargo, and almost 9 million TEUs. It is an economic and employment engine for the country, since more than 600,000 direct and indirect jobs depend on it.

It also has specialized facilities for all types of cargo and more than 7,000 logistics companies are installed in the area to offer services.

Looking to the future, the port of Hamburg intends to remain at the top of European ports by improving accessibility to attract larger ships, mainly container ships and bulk carriers.

It recently completed the second stage of the project that widened the lower Elbe waterway, offering greater depths, with a rise of almost 2 meters at favorable tides.

4. Amsterdam

Another port with history is the port of Amsterdam, who’s commercial and fishing tradition in the North Sea dates back to the 13th century.

Amsterdam registers an important activity in maritime transport, both long and short distance.

Specifically, short-distance services have been increasing in recent years and currently account for more than 20% of activity. It maintains, for example, regular lines with Scandinavia, and excellent connections with Great Britain, the Baltic states and Russia.

The port of Amsterdam forms, together with Rotterdam and Antwerp, the ARA logistics hub, well connected to the interior of the continent thanks to its multimodal network.

At the beginning of 2022, the Ijmuiden Sea lock was inaugurated, the largest in the world of its kind, with 500 meters long and 70 meters wide. This infrastructure is an investment for the future of the port, as it gives access to deep-draft ships from the North Sea.

The port of Amsterdam is strongly committed to sustainability and to the climate goals set for 2050. In addition, it is committed to the circular economy, with plastic recycling projects for the production of clean fuels.

5. Algeciras (Spain)

The fifth port in the European ranking is considered the logistics platform of reference for all of southern Europe.

Located in the province of Cádiz, the port of Algeciras is a fundamental logistics center for Mediterranean traffic, and it is also the sea route connecting Africa, Asia and America.

With its 10 kilometers of docks, last year, the port of Algeciras managed a traffic of 96 million tons and 4.4 million TEUs, thus exceeding the figures from before the pandemic. It is also important as a fishing and passenger port.

Other Spanish ports, such as Valencia or Barcelona, ​​are also well positioned among the most important European ports from where major exporters like ExFrO are exporting their goods.

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