Impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on the port of Rotterdam

05 July 2022
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Last update: July 05, 2022 - 04:10 PM CET

The war in Ukraine has led to a number of sanctions against Russia by for instance the European Union. The latest (sixth) sanctions package adopted by the European Council on 3 June prohibits the import of oil and oil products from Russia.

As with previous penalty packages, a transitional period applies to these energy products. Therefore, the extensive import of energy (crude oil, oil products, LNG, coal) through the port of Rotterdam is not (yet) affected by sanctions. This does however apply to the export and transhipment of containers. Shipping companies are transporting significantly fewer containers to and from Russia as a result of the war and sanctions.

Skyline Rotterdam
Photo: Marco van Middelkoop (ANP)

Russia-oriented transhipment

62 million tonnes of the almost 470 million tonnes of transhipment in the port of Rotterdam is Russia-oriented (13%) (source: CBS). Many energy carriers are imported from Russia via the port of Rotterdam. Roughly speaking, 30% of crude oil comes from Russia, 25% of LNG and coal and 20% of oil products. Russia exports products such as steel, copper, aluminium and nickel through Rotterdam.

New sanctions

The measures of the European Union's Sanctions Package 6, published on 3 June 2022, will apply from that date. This sixth package includes for instance a ban on:

  • The import of crude oil and oil products
  • Financing and insurance of transport of oil and oil products
  • Export restrictions on chemical products that could be used for the manufacture of chemical weapons

A transitional period of six months applies to the import of crude oil via ports. A transitional period of eight months applies to the import of oil products via ports.

For the full text of the European Regulation: Publications Office (europa.eu).

Previous sanction packages have included a ban on access by vessels registered under the Russian flag to ports on the territory of the European Union (1).

For example, the fifth sanction package included a ban on:

  • imports from Russia of coal and other solid fossil fuels
  • access to EU ports for all Russian vessels
  • entering the EU for Russian and Belarusian road hauliers
  • the import of other goods such as timber, cement, fishery products and alcohol
  • exports to Russia of aviation fuel and other goods

The fifth sanction package contains exemption provisions for certain types of cargo. Ships flying the Russian flag but falling under the exemption provisions can therefore still be admitted to the port. The exemption provisions cover cargoes such as oil and gas, refined oil products and some ores, pharmaceutical and medical products, agricultural and food products, products for civil nuclear applications and for ships on humanitarian grounds (2).

Apart from this package of sanctions, a list of natural persons and entities against whom restrictive measures have been imposed has been published by the European Union. This includes a number of ships. For these ships, certain exemption provisions apply (3).

The master, agent, shipowner and cargo owner of a Russian ship should ascertain whether any exemptions apply to the ship under which it can be admitted. The Harbour Master remains responsible for the implementation of the admission policy to the port.

(1) For the full text of the European Regulation, see: Publications Office (europa.eu),Ukraine and Russia (rvo.nl)

(2) The exemption provisions are on pages 3 and 4 of the EU Regulation: Article 3ea, paragraph 5 a to e. It also refers to annexes with specific cargo numbers (GN numbers, listed in Annex XXII on page 33 and Annex XXIV on page 66).

(3) For the full text of the European Regulation, see: Publications Office (europa.eu). For an up-to-date overview of the European sanctions against Russia see: EU sanctions against Russia for invasion of Ukraine | European Commission (europa.eu)

Customs control

Barely 10% of Rotterdam's container transport is linked to Russia. The European Union has prohibited the export of a number of goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes (dual use). That means container cargo with Russia as its destination will receive extra Customs inspections.

Cybersecurity

As far as cybersecurity of businesses is concerned, port of Rotterdam has FERM. The purpose of FERM is to encourage cooperation between companies in the port of Rotterdam and to increase awareness of cyber security risks. Currently, FERM has reported that the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has not yet had any concrete indications of cyber attacks impacting the Netherlands in relation to the war in Ukraine.

Position

The Rotterdam Port Authority has not independently drafted any policies of its own in response to the war in Ukraine. Nor does the Port Authority have the authority to do something like impose restrictions on businesses. This is the responsibility of the Dutch government. The Port Authority supports the policies of the Dutch and European authorities. International rule of law and the right of self-determination of states are essential values that must not be compromised, as well as the notion of a level playing field on which Member States act.

More information

Frequently Asked Questions

Ship and container handling

How are ships flying the Russian flag and falling under the exemption provisions of the Regulation dealt with?

The same as other shipping. Shipping traffic from Russia is being handled in the usual way. However, various agencies are paying extra attention to these ships. This is due to the restrictions imposed on Russia by EU countries. Some terminals have made other decisions in this regard.

More information on terminals

Are there possibilities in the port of Rotterdam to temporarily store stranded containers with destination Russia?

Yes, in consultation with Customs, locations have been designated where such containers may be temporarily stored. More information on the storage of containers on these sites can be obtained from the shipping company/shipbroker.

Are containers transported from the port of Rotterdam to Russia?

Containers that have been cleared by customs can be transported to Russia. More information about this can be obtained from the shipping company/shipbroker. In some cases the original destination of the cargo in Russia can be changed to another new destination outside Russia. More information on this can also be obtained from the shipping company/shipbroker.

How are containers coming from Russia being handled?

Terminals and Customs determine how they are handled. Please check the sites of terminals and/or Customs (in Dutch only).

Which companies have a lot of services to the Baltic region?

They are Unifeeder, Samskip, Eimskip, A2B, Cargow and X-press.

Shipping

How many ships come from Russian ports to Rotterdam and vice versa?

In 2021, an average of 104 ships arrive in Rotterdam directly from Russia. In 2022, the average will be 85 ships, with a decreasing trend (106, 88, 99, 90, 74, 60).

In 2021, an average of 92 ships will depart directly for a Russian port each month. In 2022, it will be 60 ships on average, with a decreasing trend (80, 69, 72, 67, 43, 32).

How many ships from Ukraine call at the port of Rotterdam?

Monthly, in 2021 about 9 ships arrived in Rotterdam from Ukraine. In 2022 respectively 6, 6, 5, 0 and 1.

How many Russian ships come to Rotterdam every year?

In 2021, an average of 13 Russian ships came to Rotterdam per month. In 2022, there were also 13, with a sharply declining trend, 20, 13, 20, 12, 7, 4.

How many Russian ships has the Harbour Master denied access to the port of Rotterdam?

Until 30 May 2022, the Harbour Master has denied access to the port of Rotterdam to one ship on the basis of the sanctions following the war in Ukraine.

How many Ukrainian ships come to Rotterdam every year?

No Ukrainian ships have come to Rotterdam in 2021. And none this year either.

Which ships are covered by the ban?

All vessels flying the flag of the Russian Federation since 24 February fall within the scope of the ban. An exception has been made for vessels carrying a specific cargo. The exception provisions are found on pages 3 and 4 of the EU Regulation: Article 3e(5)(a) to (e). This also refers to annexes with specific cargo numbers (CN numbers, included in Annex XXII on page 33 and Annex XXIV on page 66).

For the complete text of the European regulation, see: Publications Office (europa.eu), Ukraine and Russia (rvo.nl)

Volumes

How many containers are shipped between Russia and Rotterdam?

In 2021, 1,275,000 TEU will have been shipped to and from Russia. This concerns import, export and transhipment cargo (including shortsea).

This is about 8% of the total container volume of the port of Rotterdam.

From 1 January to 1 July 2022, 255,000 TEU related to Russia were transhipped in Rotterdam (deepsea/feeder and shortsea). This volume mainly concerns the beginning of this period, i.e. before the sanctions took effect. In the last three months there were almost no shipments. Russia-related volumes are therefore 380,000 TEU lower than in 2021.

What type of cargo comes from Russia to the Netherlands?

From Russia, mainly crude oil, petroleum products, coal & lignite, steel, copper, aluminium and nickel are imported to the Netherlands.

What can no longer be imported because of the sanctions that have been imposed?

The sanctions imposed relate to imports and exports. Which products are covered is published on the website of the RVO (only in Dutch), where the most recent overview is available.

What exceptions apply from sanction package 5?

The sanction package includes exemptions for certain types of cargo. Ships which sail under the Russian flag but fall under the exception provisions can still be allowed to enter the port. The exemption provisions are found on pages 3 and 4 of the EU Regulation: Article 3ea, paragraph 5 a to e. This also refers to annexes with specific cargo numbers (CN numbers, included in Annex XXII on page 33 and Annex XXIV on page 66).

For the complete text of the European regulation, see: Publications Office (europa.eu) and look at the site of the RVO. (only in Dutch)

Does reefer cargo (specifically: perishable goods) also fall under the sanctioned products?

No, at the moment perishable goods are not covered by the sanctions and can be exported to Russia.

What do the sanctions mean for coal imports?

The import of Russian coal will be stopped from mid-August. Then EU member states will no longer be allowed to import Russian coal. In 2021, coal supplies in Rotterdam amounted to 23.4 million tonnes of which 25% (5.9 million tonnes) came from Russia.

In the first six months of 2022, 25%* more coal was transhipped in the port of Rotterdam than in the same period last year. The increase mainly involved the re-export of coal for power stations in Germany.

*Estimation based on 5 months

What is the total import/export volume between the Netherlands and Russia?

The total (import/export) volume between the Netherlands and Russia amounted to 85 million tonnes in 2020. Of that, 73% was shipped via the port of Rotterdam. The remaining volume was transported via other Dutch ports or other modes of transport.

How much money is involved in these imports and exports?

The volume of imports amounted to 76 million tonnes in 2020 and was worth EUR 28.6 billion. The export volume in 2020 was 9 million tonnes with a value of EUR 18.4 billion.

Sanctions and impact

What are the consequences of the oil embargo that comes into force at the end of this year?

It is expected that a ban on the import of Russian oil will mainly lead to major changes in global oil trade flows. This is expected to (temporarily) result in reduced availability of oil (products) and thus higher prices.

Globally, oil production and consumption will remain at a similar level, but Russian oil will no longer be imported via Rotterdam in the event of a boycott. That oil will find its way to countries without a boycott on Russian oil, such as India and China. And some of the oil supplied to those countries until now will be transported to Europe. This oil will come from the Middle East, for example.

It sounds quite simple, but it definitely isn't. It represents a major disruption of the global energy system, which is likely to have (temporary) effects on the availability and prices of various oil products. The boycott of Russian oil means, among other things, that vessels will need to make longer trips and not every refinery is suitable for every type of crude oil. The composition of crude oil varies from one source to another and this may mean that some refineries need to be adapted accordingly. Not to mention the consequences this may have for ongoing contracts.

The six-month transition period does mean that companies have some time to prepare for these changes as best they can.

Is less Russian oil already being imported into Rotterdam at the moment?

Yes. Several large refineries in Rotterdam have already taken the decision to no longer process Russian oil.

Is it true that sanctions on Russian coal and oil are easier to absorb than those on Russian natural gas?

Yes, that's right. The main reason is that coal and oil are mainly transported worldwide by ship. The infrastructure is designed for this. Therefore, coal and oil can also be imported from other countries. However, this radical change in trade patterns is expected to lead to (temporary) bottlenecks in availability and higher prices for oil products. Natural gas is mainly transported through pipelines (from Russia, as well as Norway and Algeria) to countries in the European Union. The pipelines cannot be moved. A small amount of Russian natural gas is transported to Europe in the form of LNG (liquefied natural gas; natural gas cooled to -162 degrees to convert it to liquid form). Rotterdam also has an LNG terminal. But in the short term you cannot drastically expand the capacity to make LNG, ship it in special tankers and import it in special storage tanks. This means replacing imports of Russian natural gas is more difficult than those of coal and oil.

Is the port of Rotterdam closed to Russian shipping?

No, the port of Rotterdam is not closed to Russian shipping. The extensive import of energy (crude oil, oil products, LNG, coal) is not (yet) affected by sanctions, but in particular the export and transhipment of containers is affected by the uncertainty resulting from the war and the sanctions. Coal may no longer be imported as of mid-August. Crude oil from Russia may no longer be imported as of 6 December 2022. For oil products from Russia, the transition period expires 6 February 2023.

Do import sanctions apply from Russia?

There are import sanctions in place from Russia. They concern certain types of goods. For example, there is an import ban on steel and iron. In Rotterdam, approximately 400 thousand tonnes of steel come from Russia on an annual basis (of 2 million tonnes in total). At the same time as the sanction on Russia, the EU increased the quota for other suppliers. Other countries (China, India, Turkey) can therefore supply what Russia no longer supplies.

Do export sanctions apply to Russia?

Export sanctions are in place for certain types of goods. For example, there are restrictions on the export of maritime navigation and radio communication technology to Russia. Look at the website of the RVO (in Dutch only) for a complete overview.

What are the consequences for companies in the port?

The substantial import of energy (crude oil, oil products, LNG and coal) does not (yet) seem to be affected by sanctions. Exports in particular are currently suffering from the uncertainty caused by the war and the sanctions. The economic consequences in the medium and longer term are difficult to assess right now. In many areas, there is a strong trade relationship with Russia that will come to an end or be severely restricted and/or made more difficult by the sanction measures. Deltalinqs (only in Dutch) represents the joint interests of more than 95% of all logistics, port and industrial companies in Mainport Rotterdam and is closely following the developments.

Also see:
Q&A on consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war for entrepreneurs | VNO-NCW (only in Dutch)
Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland about Ukraine and Russia (only in Dutch)

Can the Harbour Master impose sanctions?

No. The Dutch government, in cooperation with other EU countries, decides if and when sanctions are imposed, not the Harbour Master. However, the Harbour Master is responsible for all aspects (e.g. safety and efficiency) related to the access policy for ships. If the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, on behalf of the government, orders that ships from certain countries be prohibited, the Harbour Master will implement this decision.

Can the Port Authority impose sanctions?

No. The Dutch government, in cooperation with the European Union, imposes sanctions; the Port Authority does not. The Port Authority supports government policy.

How many containers with Russian cargo are stuck in the port of Rotterdam?

In June, the total number of containers with Russian cargo again decreased significantly from 4184 containers on 10 May to 3436 containers on 17 May to 1465 containers on 1 July. Of these 1465 containers, 1380 had been released (94%) by Customs and 85 were blocked (6%).

Safety and security

How well prepared is the port of Rotterdam for possible cyber attacks?

Cyber resilience has been an important theme in the port of Rotterdam for years. The Port of Rotterdam Authority is co-initiator of FERM. FERM is a foundation, in which partners such as Deltalinqs, the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region, DCMR and the Police are involved. FERM's goal is to stimulate cooperation between businesses in the port of Rotterdam, increase digital knowledge and skills and raise awareness of cyber risks. The business community in the port of Rotterdam bears the greatest responsibility in this matter. FERM reports that the NCSC has so far no concrete indications that digital attacks in relation to the war in Ukraine are currently affecting the Netherlands. For more information: FERM (only in Dutch).

What do you advise companies in the port of Rotterdam to do?

You should ensure that cybersecurity, the protection of your digital systems including links to other companies, is in order. To do so, follow the advice of the NCSC www.ncsc.nl and also look at www.ferm-rotterdam.nl (only in Dutch). Think about what to do in case of an unexpected failure of utilities (electricity, water, (mobile) phone networks). In addition, make sure that the physical security of the company is in order, so that unauthorised persons cannot gain access to the company premises.

Who is responsible for protecting the port area against possible attacks?

The primary and physical protection of the port area against possible military attacks is a responsibility of the government, although such attacks do not seem realistic. Companies also have a responsibility, by ensuring that security protocols are in order and complied with. Therefore, reporting suspicious situations and disruptions of digital systems, for example, to the police and the Port Cyber Notification Desk of the Harbour Coordination Centre (HCC) is very important.