To maintain the competitiveness of its shipping industry, the EU controls a sizeable merchant ship fleet that keeps expanding every year. In 2020, the EU shipping industry controlled about 23,400 ships, up from some 15,400 in 2010. Until 2013, developed countries in Europe operated the largest container ship fleet in terms of capacity in the world. They were, however, overtook by developing Asian countries in 2013, which have been operating the largest container vessel fleet ever since.
Cargo traffic down during the COVID-19 pandemicIn 2020, more than 3.3 billion metric tons of seaborne cargo passed through ports in the EU, a dip of about seven percent compared with the previous year. Thanks to its highly developed port infrastructure, the Netherlands handled the largest cargo volume of all EU states in 2020. The Port of Rotterdam was the busiest port in the EU in terms of cargo throughput that year, processing the most seaborne cargo, including shipping containers.
In 2020, over 94 million TEUs of containers passed through EU ports, a decrease of 2.4 percent year-on-year. Spain handled the largest volume of shipping containers in 2020, amounting to more than 15.6 million TEUs.