Cargo throughput in the Port of Rotterdam increased during the first nine months of 2011 by 1.7% to 327 million tons. Throughput increased for agribulk (+17%), coal (+3%), other dry bulk (+10%), containers (+11%), roll-on/roll-off (+2%) and other general cargo (+24%). Other liquid bulk remained the same. Lower amounts of iron ore and scrap (-7%), crude oil (-5%) and mineral oil products (-6%) were loaded and unloaded. Dry bulk handling decreased by 1% to a good 65 million tons and liquid bulk handling dropped by just on 4% to 149 million tons.
Hans Smits, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority: “Throughput developed well in the third quarter, as compared to the first half year and the darkening economic climate. Now all mood indicators are dropping and the world economy is cooling down. Because of that, export is also stalling. Till now it had been a driving force for our throughput. Not surprisingly, growth will decrease in the fourth quarter. Over the whole year we still expect growth.”
Agribulk (grains, seeds, feed ingredients) throughput increased by 17% to a little more than 7 million tons. While outgoing throughput decreased by a fifth, incoming throughput increased by a quarter to 85% of the total. The European harvests were generally disappointing this year, so that more had to be imported from overseas. One specific factor is the supply of raw materials, new this year, for the bio ethanol plant of Abengoa.
A little more coal (+3% to 19 million tons) was handled. The import of cokes decreased due to steel production being scaled down. This was more than compensated by the larger supply of energy coal for the German power stations. They partly have to cushion the closure of the nuclear power stations.
Throughput of ore and scrap dropped by 6% to a good 29 million tons. The two largest customers, ThyssenKrupp and ArcelorMittal, had already reduced their steel production considerably. This will push the incoming throughput of ore down further in the fourth quarter.
10% more other dry bulk (especially minerals for the production of glass, paper, steel and chemicals) was loaded and above all, unloaded. The growth over the first six months was still 20%. This is an indication of the decreased production of the metal industry and chemical sector and the phasing out of stocks. The volume over nine months amounted to over 9 million tons.
The incoming throughput of crude oil dropped by 5% to just under 71 million tons. The decline in the first six months was still 8%. Despite the low refining margins in Europe, the strength of the cluster keeps the oil throughput in Rotterdam fairly stable. Refining capacity has been cut back in other locations (Wilhelmshaven, Marseille, Dunkirk).
The throughput of mineral oil products (petrol, diesel, kerosene, fuel oil) has also recovered,
-5% to 54 million tons, with respect to the first half year (-9%). The low charter prices of very large tankers (VLCCs) makes it rather more lucrative to profit from lower product prices in Asia (‘arbitrage trading’). The preparations for the winter season also play a part.
Other liquid bulk, mainly basic chemicals as far as volume goes but also bio fuels, vegetable oils and fruit juices, marked time with almost 24 million tons. For the time being, the increase in the throughput of basic chemicals in the first half of the year compensates for the decrease in bio fuel and palm oil imports over nine months.
Container throughput increased, both incoming (+13%) and outgoing (+8%). Taken together, 93 million tons was handled, 11% more than in the first nine months of 2010. Measured in 20-foot container units, the growth is almost 8%, up to 9 million TEU. The growth in throughput of containers is declining due to the cooling down of the world economy and drop in confidence of consumers and producers. Market signals indicate the traditional autumn peak will be truncated.
The roll-on/roll-off transport gained 2% to 13 million tons thanks to the still slow recovery of the British economy. Overcapacity means there is still strong competition between the shipping companies and pressure on the rates.
Throughput of other general cargo continues to recover from the heavy blow of the crisis. 6 million tons of steel, paper products, fruit, metals and project cargo crossed the quays, an increase of 24%. This is mainly thanks to the Steinweg terminal on the Maasvlakte where the supply of slabs from Brazil is growing steadily.