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Seafreight industry in the UK - statistics & facts

The sea freight industry is vital for the economy of the United Kingdom (UK); about 95 percent of all imports and exports are transported by ships. The slowdown in global trade due to the COVID-19 pandemic has, however, led to a decrease in total tonnage of goods transported through major ports within the UK, as the decrease in port calls worldwide shows. While the year 2021 is showing improvements, the volume of sea freight handled in UK ports is still below pre-pandemic levels.

Grimsby & Immingham, London, and Felixstowe are the busiest ports

The ports of Grimsby & Immingham and London are the two largest ports in the UK. Between January and September 2021, a total of some 38.7 million tons were moved via the Port of London. Of these, 32.1 million was inward sea freight. The Port of Grimsby & Immingham handled about 36.8 million tons of seaborne cargo in this period. Both ports have seen an increase in the volume of cargo handled between 2020 and 2021, showing signs that the UK port industry is on its way to recovering from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the Port of Felixstowe did not process nearly as much cargo as the two previous ports in 2021, it remains to be the largest container terminal in the UK. The Port of Felixstowe handles around 36% of all containers arriving to and departing from the country.
Another important sea freight port, Milford Haven in Wales saw almost 11 million tons of sea freight departing from its shores. Milford Haven was also the leading port for the transportation of liquefied gas in 2020, pushing ahead of Medway Forth in Scotland. By comparison, Forth and Tees & Hartlepool were the greatest crude oil moving ports. To recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, the government is planning to invest in port infrastructure and the decarbonization of the sector.

Port operators and shipping companies

The UK has over 120 commercial ports and five major operators: Associated British Ports (ABP), Forth Ports, Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH), Peel Group, and PD Ports. Among the main shipping lines, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Maersk Line, and Evergreen Marine all have subsidiaries in the UK.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 31 most important statistics relating to "Seafreight industry in the UK".

Statistics on the topic


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