One-third of inbound goods are in transit

In 2016, the Netherlands received 185 billion kg of goods which were destined for transit. Nearly 85 percent of these goods arrived by seagoing vessel. Upon entry, two-thirds of the goods were carried out to Belgium, Germany, France or the UK. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports these figures as part of its first publication containing detailed data on transit trade in the Netherlands. This publication is co-financed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and comprises a more in-depth analysis of goods flows. It has been published (in Dutch only) as a background article.

In total, the Netherlands received 590 billion kg of goods from abroad in 2016. More than half were destined for either transit or re-exportation to other countries. Altogether 547 billion kg of goods left the Netherlands again, including 212 billion kg of transit goods.

 Goods in transit trade remain under foreign ownership and are reloaded onto other means of transport or stored (temporarily) while in the Netherlands, with the Netherlands acting as distribution centre for such goods. In the case of re-exports, goods are temporarily under Dutch ownership and often undergo minimal processing before being shipped abroad. Re-exports form part of Dutch imports and exports, while transit goods do not.

Gross weight of international goods flows

The Netherlands transit point for fossil fuels and ores

The most common goods which pass through the Netherlands in transit before reaching their final destination are fossil fuels and ores; these constitute 60 percent of the 185 billion kg of inbound transit goods. The volume of outbound transit goods was larger in 2016; this may be related to the fact that goods were put in storage before 2016 and then carried out of the Netherlands in 2016.

Inbound transit goods mainly from outside Europe

Transit goods are often likely to hail from farther away than goods intended for the Netherlands. More than three-quarters of Dutch imports (including those for re-exports) were loaded in a European country; close to 60 percent of inbound transit goods are from outside of Europe. Of all goods exported from the Netherlands, 71 percent are unloaded in one of its neighbouring countries, versus 66 percent of outbound transit goods.

Transit trade and imports/exports by region (by weight), 2016
 Oceania and other areasAsiaAmericasAfricaOther European countriesFrance/Belgium/Germany/UK
Inbound transit goods4.112.727.813.728.812.8
Imports (incl. for re-exports)0.96.610.33.331.547.4
Outbound transit goods0.810.26.82.313.566.4
Exports (incl. for re-exports)

Transit goods mainly carried by seagoing vessel

As the bulk of inbound transit goods originates from outside Europe, the logical mode of transport is overseas shipment. Of all goods entering the Netherlands in transit, nearly 85 percent arrive on a seagoing vessel. In comparison: slightly more than half of Dutch imports (in total weight) arrive by seagoing vessel, one-fifth arrive are transported by road and 15 percent are carried by inland vessel.
Transit goods are taken out of the Netherlands primarily by seagoing vessel (31 percent), inland vessel (27 percent) or through pipelines (25 percent). The majority of export goods leave the Netherlands by seagoing vessel (over one-third), followed by road transport (one-quarter) and inland navigation (nearly one-quarter). Hence, road haulage plays a less significant role in exports of transit goods than in direct goods exports. For railway transport, it is the other way round.


Transit trade and imports/exports, by mode of transport (in weight), 2016
 pipeline transportair transportrailway transportroad transportinland shippingseagoing transport
Inbound transit goods2.
Imports (incl. for re-exports)
Outbound transit goods25.
Exports (incl. for re-exports)