Continuing container growth pushes throughput at port of Rotterdam to a new high
At 469.0 million tonnes, the port of Rotterdam’s total throughput volume ended up slightly higher in 2018 than in 2017, which was itself a record year (467.4 million tonnes). Container transhipment was the engine of growth again, with a 4.5% increase in tonnage. Measured in TEUs, the standard unit for containers, the increase was 5.7% and the annual total was 14.5 million TEUs – also a record. This strengthens the position of Europe’s largest container port in this strategically important market segment. Significant underlying shifts were observable in the goods segments. Whereas container transhipment continued to grow at a healthy pace, that of crude oil, mineral oil products and agribulk fell. Throughput of LNG (+163.6%) and biomass (+31.6%) saw a further spectacular rises last year.
For the Port of Rotterdam, 2018 was marked by a high level of investment. Gross investments rose 91% to € 408.1 million (2017: € 213.8 million), the highest amount since the construction of Maasvlakte 2. By far the largest part of this amount was used to further improve the logistical accessibility of the port of Rotterdam, for example by constructing the Container Exchange Route on the Maasvlakte, the Princess Amalia Viaduct and relocating the port railway via the Theemsweg route. Also, the Port Authority’s internationalisation strategy was given a significant boost in 2018 by the acquisition of a minority stake in the Brazilian port of Pecém.
At least as important as this economic contribution is the social contribution that the Port Authority makes to the improvement of the living environment. We contribute to safety in the port, both through physical infrastructure such as security cameras and in terms of resilience against cyberattacks. The Port of Rotterdam Authority is committed to drastically reducing CO2 emissions in order to help achieve the ambitious national climate target. We want to play a pioneering role and make the port an inspiring example of human capital, so that the Rotterdam port and industrial area will still be making a substantial contribution to Dutch prosperity and employment in 2050. One important employment initiative introduced recently is the Leer Werk Akkoord. This joint scheme involving the Port Authority, the municipality, educational institutions and the business sector offers real jobs for the long-term unemployed in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region.
An attractive business climate is essential if the port of Rotterdam is to continue contributing to prosperity and well-being in the Netherlands in the future.
With the exception of LNG, liquid bulk recorded lower throughput volumes in all subcategories last year. The throughput of crude oil decreased slightly, due in part to somewhat lower refining margins. Even so, remarkably, throughput exceeded 100 million tonnes for the fourth year in a row. The throughput of mineral oil products fell mainly as a result of less fuel oil coming into and leaving the port. The huge increase in LNG throughput (+163.6%) was mainly caused by transhipments of LNG, originating from the Yamal field (Northern Russia), from ice-class LNG tankers to ‘normal’ LNG tankers, which then transported the cargo onwards to Asia and elsewhere.
Despite the market being under considerable pressure, the dry bulk segment showed only a slight downturn in throughput (-3%). In the coal subcategory, the consolidation strategy that is being used appears to be working well for Rotterdam: throughput rose by 2.3%. Thermal coal remained at the same level as the previous year. The throughput of coke coal rose thanks to success in attracting cargo packages for Germany. Iron ore throughput fell in 2018, among other reasons due to the renovation of a blast furnace and because of stagnating demand from the steel industry. The fall in agribulk throughput in Rotterdam was partly caused by the shift of cargo packages to Amsterdam.
Container transhipment saw a further strong increase in 2018, as a result of which market share was gained in the Hamburg-Le Havre range. A key factor in the increase in 2018 was the growth in numbers of transhipment and full import containers. Container exports developed less strongly, partly due to Chinese import restrictions on waste flows. The shortsea segment suffered from slowdowns in the British and Russian economies.
Roll on/roll off and other breakbulk
In RoRo transhipment too, which ended the year slightly up, the British RoRo trade showed less growth, probably due to the effects of Brexit uncertainty on the British economy. The transhipment of other breakbulk cargo was around the same as the volume in 2017.
Port Authority’s financial results
The Port of Rotterdam Authority recorded turnover of € 707.2 million in 2018 (2017: € 712.1 million). On the income side, both port dues and lease revenue fell. The net result excluding taxes amounted to € 254.1 million (2017: € 247.3 million) mainly as a result of lower interest charges.
Site lease charges, the largest revenue item, decreased by 0.9% to € 373.7 million. This decrease reflects a one-off gain in 2017 due to a price revision with retroactive effect. Income from the port dues paid by ships when they visit the port fell 0.5% to € 302.4 million, due to an increase in the discounts granted. Other income came to €31.1 million (2017: € 30.9 million). Operating expenses rose 2.6% to € 267.8 million, mainly due to the increase in activities relating to the two strategic priorities: Energy Transition and Digitisation. In line with existing agreements, the Port Authority proposes that a € 96.5 million dividend (+38%) be paid to the shareholders – the municipality of Rotterdam (70.83%) and the State (29.17%) – for 2018: € 68.3 million to the municipality and € 28.2 million to the State.
The Port Authority expects throughput volume to increase slightly in 2019, with container sector growth being lower than the exceptional levels seen in previous years. The Port Authority is implementing a ‘both-and’ strategy: strengthening the existing port industrial complex and at the same time embracing new initiatives in the fields of energy transition and digitisation. Partly because of this, we also expect high investment levels in the years ahead. The port’s future earning capacity is characterised by robust growth opportunities, according to recent research by Erasmus University. However, the port industrial complex will need to evolve. The research also points to the tremendous significance of the Port of Rotterdam for the growth of the Dutch economy. For example, the port accounts for 6.2% of gross domestic product and creates employment for 385,000 people. Both of these core findings underline the relevance of Mainport Rotterdam.