UK maritime statistics


Help for shipping lines, their agents and ports to complete statistical returns on maritime freight traffic through ports, as required by the European Commission Maritime Statistics Directive (95/64/EU).

For statistical results for the UK maritime sector please visit the DfT Maritime Statistics.

Background and legal basis

1. What is the Maritime Statistics Directive?

The Maritime Statistics Directive is a piece of European Union legislation passed in December 1995 (Council Directive 96/64/EC) which requires Member States to supply to the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) information relating to maritime traffic through its’ ports. The UK has been required to report data under the Directive since 1 January 2000. The Directive was ‘recast’ in 2009, bringing together the original directive and various subsequent amendments in one document.

2. Is the provision of data obligatory?

Yes. The Directive requires the Government to make collection obligatory in the United Kingdom. The legal powers in the UK are by means of a statutory instrument under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. The statutory instrument (number 2330 of 1997) obliges all relevant bodies in the transport industry to provide data to DfT for onward transmission to Eurostat.

3. Who has to provide the data?

Although the statutory instrument requires all relevant transport organisations to provide the data, the detailed data has to be provided by the shipping lines or their agents for freight movements through major UK ports (i.e. those handling more than one million tonnes of freight per annum). In addition, port authorities at major ports have to provide quarterly aggregated data to confirm the completeness of the data collected from shipping lines/agents.

At minor ports (those handling less than 1 million tonnes) only annual aggregate figures are required from port authorities.

4. Why are the data collected?

The data collected under the Directive are used by the European Commission to assist in policy development at a European level and to monitor the impact of European policy measures.

But the UK Government has collected statistics on port traffic in the UK since longer before the Directive came in. These have been used by government, business and the wider public in developing and debating maritime transport policy and in planning operations and new ventures. The effect of the Directive was to change the detail of what was already collected in the UK and introduce much more consistency in European port statistics.

5. Who is responsible for ensuring collection of data in the UK?

The Government department with overall responsibility for the data collection is the Department for Transport, (DfT). It employs a Collection Agent, BMT Reliability Consultants, to carry out the day-to-day operation of the data collection activity.

6. Where can I find the results from the data collected?

The Department for Transport publishes UK data

Eurostat publishes Europe-wide data

7. What data has to be collected and how often?

The Directive requires the collection of statistics on freight traffic, vessels and passenger traffic through ports throughout the European Union. The DfT has the means to collect data on vessels and passenger traffic separately, so the system described here relates to the requirements for freight traffic only.

Data relating to freight traffic is only being collected in detail for UK ports handling more than one million tonnes of freight per annum (‘major ports’). This detailed data includes:

  • the reporting port;
  • the Lloyds Register Number (or IMO Number) for the vessel (or name, flag and deadweight);
  • the direction of movement (inwards or outwards);
  • port of loading for inwards cargo or unloading for outwards cargo;
  • for unitised traffic the type of units (container, accompanied trailer, unaccompanied trailer etc.);
  • whether they are loaded or empty units;
  • the number of units and the freight tonnage;
  • for other traffic, the broad product group and freight tonnage.

This data has to be provided at least quarterly and is being collected primarily from shipping lines or their agents.

In addition, the ‘major’ port authorities (where traffic exceeds one million tonnes per annum) are providing the following information on a ‘retrospective’ quarterly basis:

  • the names of all shipping lines and agents using their port;
  • the identity of all vessels using their port; and
  • the gross weight and number of units of goods in and out of their port.

Data for other ports, handling less than one million tonnes a year, is being provided only annually in summary form by port authorities.

For more see Administrative Rules.

8. How are the data collected in the UK?

These range of options are available by which data providers can supply the data:

  • by sending the data automatically via a Port Community System;
  • by entering the data through web based forms (iSDES);
  • by submitting ASCII data files in a DfT approved format;
  • by completing paper forms.

The collection agency provide a central database to collect and store the data received by these methods, ready for transmission to DfT.

For more details see Submission Methods and Administrative Rules.

9. Dissemination

The DfT publishes port statistics at the level of ‘Statistical Ports’ – a longstanding set of ports or groups of ports for which statistics have which have historically been provided. Further analyses using the extra data collected - for example, direction, cargo type, quarter, vessel characteristics and route-wise traffic flows may also be made available. However, DfT will continue to respect the confidentiality of individual operators’ information when disseminating data.

10. How can I get further information?

You can obtain further information from the contacts listed below.

Contact us

For enquiries about statistical results or general data collection policy please contact the Department for Transport.

For help with providing data please contact the Maritime Statistics Help Desk.

Maritime Statistics Help Desk
Maritime Statistics Collection Agency
BMT Reliability Consultants Limited
12 Little Park Farm Road
PO15 5SU

Tel: 01489 553290
Fax: 01489 553291

To ask questions/send messages to the help desk:

To submit data:

Department for Transport
Maritime Statistics Branch
Department for Transport
Zone 2/19
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street

Tel: 020 7944 3087
Fax: 020 7944 2165