Dutch shipping

Economic contribution


Dutch history is characterised by a rich maritime tradition. From historical sea traders to a modern merchant navy, the Dutch shipping sector has brought prosperity to the Netherlands for hundreds of years.

Considering the relatively small size of its labour market, the Dutch shipping sector plays a significant role in the Dutch economy, contributing a total of €7.7 billion. This begs the question, how does shipping provide so much added value for the Netherlands?


Global trade

At the global level, as much as 90 percent of goods is transported by ship. It demonstrates without a doubt the importance of the worldwide shipping industry. In recent years, the Dutch shipping sector, just as the rest of the worldwide shipping industry, has experienced the consequences of the global financial crisis. However, it can now be said with caution that the global economy is now gradually recovering – and Dutch shipowners are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

The Dutch shipping industry is an important driver of the Dutch maritime cluster. In 2016, for example, it contributed an added value of €2.4 billion, with a total production value of €7.7 billion (both amounts including direct and indirect figures).

The significance of Dutch shipping


Maritime shipping – and the fact that the Netherlands is an export country – has played an important role in the Dutch economy. The Netherlands’ outward-looking perspective has been enabled by a prosperous shipping industry; it literally connects the country to the rest of the world. For example, the Port of Rotterdam could never have played such an important role if the Netherlands had not been a seafaring nation.

The economic situation for Dutch shipping has been meagre in recent years, with owners of container feeders, dry cargo and multi-purpose vessels still experiencing the effects of the long recession. Overcapacity still means that freight prices are not recovering, and offshore oil and gas has been severely affected by the sharp fall in oil prices.

On the other hand, several sectors are getting the wind back in their sails. This includes a healthy outlook for the cruise market, gas transport, and an offshore wind sector buoyant from the construction of large-scale wind farms.

Maritime cluster

The maritime cluster in the Netherlands comprises twelve maritime sectors: ports, offshore maritime suppliers, shipbuilding, hydraulic engineering, maritime services and knowledge institutes, inland shipping, the Royal Netherlands Navy, watersports, fishing, and shipping companies. This encompasses 12,000 companies, employing more than a quarter of a million people and realizing a total added value of over €23 billion (figures: The Dutch maritime cluster, monitor 2015).

The added value of the Dutch shipping industry as a knowledge economy can also be seen in the labour market. Dutch seafarers rarely work their entire careers at sea; instead spending an average of seven years ‘at sea’. After this time, most of them continue their career path on shore, in a job within the maritime cluster. This could be working for a shipping company, an educational institution, a supplier or for the KVNR. That's right, there are three former seafarers working here at the KVNR!

In this way, a huge amount of practical knowledge returns back to the Dutch maritime cluster – ensuring the Netherlands’ leading position in the maritime world.