Shipping company OPDR expects to have transhipped around 170,000 TEU in 2011, 10% more than in the previous year. OPDR is a market leader in the short-sea transport of containers between Northern Europe and Spain/Portugal. Despite the debt crisis particularly in those countries, and the poor economic climate in general, the shipping company is in a positive mood. It has been noted that the cargo flows are not becoming smaller, but that the balance is changing: Spanish and Portuguese exports are increasing more than imports are shrinking. The crisis is even providing opportunities because direct road transport from Spain to Northern Europe is coming under pressure. Shippers therefore started switching more to transport by water a few months ago.
The change is so marked that, since the autumn, OPDR has suddenly had to take large numbers of empty containers southwards. Since 1 November, an equipment imbalance surcharge of 50 euros per container has therefore been charged for the Portuguese and Northern Spanish ports. Although economic growth in the eurozone is declining further, OPDR sees more opportunities for the short-sea sector. Due to the economic decline, there is less chance of return cargo from the north for the Spanish road haulage companies. The uncertainty keeps them closer to home. Exporters therefore have to look for alternatives. ‘Whether you take the fruit and vegetable exporters in the south or the producers of chemical and consumer goods in the north, there is demand for short-sea solutions from every direction,’ says Till Ole Barrelet, OPDR manager. Against this background, the shipping company is modernising its container park. In 2011, 1200 new 40-foot pallet-wide/extra high containers were ordered and 300 new reefer containers went into use.
The situation on the ship market also provides OPDR, which has a strong balance sheet, with opportunities. Due to the very low price of ships, it could buy the four or five ships it usually hires. Up to now, many small shipping companies have been kept afloat by shipping banks. The pressure on their balance sheets is increasing, however, the longer the cases of rationalisation continue. Experts therefore expect to see a restructuring and consolidation of the market this year. OPDR should be able to benefit from this too.
OPDR, founded in 1882 as Oldenburg-Portugiesische Dampfschiffs-Rhederei, operates five of its own 700-TEU ships and charter vessels between Northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. It also has a ConRo service between the Canary Islands and the Spanish mainland. In 2011, in conjunction with X-Press Feeders, a service was launched between the east coast of Spain and Tunisia and Morocco. The collaboration also involves the connection with Northern Europe (Route: Rotterdam, Antwerp, Vigo, Leixoes, Lisbon, La Coruna, Felixstowe, Rotterdam).
X-Press restricts itself to the ‘feeder containers’ (= with a connection to intercontinental services) and OPDR represents the intra-European cargo (‘short sea’). OPDR has a turnover of about € 80 million and Hamburg operates a network of around 43 agencies in 27 countries from Hamburg. It employs 100 people on land and 100 at sea.
Source: Deutsche Verkehrs Zeitung, 08-12-2011
Just like most European destinations, this trade was also hit badly by the economic crisis and recovery was slow. The geographic balance fluctuated in 2008-2010 around 65% southwards.
| (Statistics Netherlands x1000 TEU)
Rotterdam is probably the market leader in Northern Europe on this trade. Hamburg and Bremerhaven together have posted about 122,000, 86,000 and 81,000 TEU since 2008 (own figures and from Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein bureau of statistics). No figures are known for Antwerp.
Photo; Martijn Hessing