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International Forwarding Association Blog » European Logistics » Largest and Busiest Cargo Hubs in Europe
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Largest and Busiest Cargo Hubs in Europe

The busiest airports and ports in Europe handle large quantities of cargo thanks to their advanced technologies and strategic location. Some of the largest cargo hubs serve more than 400 destinations and ensure reliable and safe transport. International freight forwarders ship parcels and cargo from major ports and airports such as the Heathrow Airport, Brussels Airport, Port of Rotterdam, and Port of Antwerp.

European Airports

Heathrow Airport has a cargo hub that processes some 1.3 million tons a year, and the goal is to reach 3 million tons in 20 years. BA World Cargo is found at the airport and has quality control inspection, store tray assembly, and labelling capabilities. The cargo plan of the airport aims to increase capacity, improve throughput times and efficiency, and reduce costs.


One of the main focus areas is e-freight compliancy as to ensure timely delivery and minimize costs and waste. Brussels Airport also has a cargo handling area where over 170 cargo agencies operate to ensure a smooth shipment process.

There are plans to build a handling facility for cold storage and refrigeration transport. Major operators that ship cargo from Europe include the Singapore Airlines, Ava Air, and Saudi Arabian Airlines. The airport is also the home to express cargo and courier companies.  Other busy European airports that handle cargo shipments are the Frankfurt Airport, East Midlands Airport, Malpensa International Airport, and Cologne Bonn Airport.

European Ports

Some of the busiest container ports in Europe are the Port of Antwerp, Port of Rotterdam, and Port of Hamburg. Rotterdam and Antwerp are the busiest hubs in terms of cargo tonnage. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest and busiest container hub which offers reliable, safe, and cost-efficient processing and handling of containers.

The port’s terminals are equipped with advanced capabilities for handling different types of cargo, including liquefied natural gas, break bulk, liquid bulk, dry bulk, and containers. The Port of Antwerp is also a major hub for cargo processing and transport which has connections with multiple destinations, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The types of cargo that are processed and shipped include break, dry, and liquid bulk, container cargo, and roro. Container cargo covers items such as computers, clothing, DVDs, televisions, and toys that can be shipped in containers in large quantities.

Dry bulk cargo includes materials and commodities such as cement, salt, sand, grain, sugar, iron ore, and coal. Break bulk refers to items such as parts, rolls of steel, wood, and paper while roro refers to vehicles such as cranes, trucks, busses, and cars. The Port of Hamburg is yet another major port in Europe that members of the International Forwarding Association use.

This port is the home to 50 facilities for bulk, break bulk, and roro processing and has 4 container terminals. Some 7,300 logistics providers operate in Frankfurt to ensure safe and reliable handling. In 2018 alone, the port processed more than 135 million tons, making it one of the largest European cargo hubs.