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

13 April 2022
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Last update: April 13, 2022 - 15:30 / 3.30 PM CET

The war in Ukraine has prompted the European Union and other bodies to impose a number of sanctions on Russia. The extensive import of energy (crude oil, oil products, LNG, coal) is not (yet) affected by sanctions, but the export and transhipment of containers in particular suffers from the uncertainty caused by the war and the sanctions.

Skyline Rotterdam
Photo: Marco van Middelkoop (ANP)

Russia-oriented transhipment

Of the roughly 470 million tons transshipped through the port of Rotterdam, 62 million tons are oriented towards Russia (13%). Large amounts of energy carriers are imported from Russia via the port of Rotterdam. Currently this comes to roughly 30% of Russian crude oil, 25% of LNG, and 20% of oil products and coal. Russia exports products such as steel, copper, aluminium and nickel via Rotterdam.

New sanctions

The measures of the European Union's fifth sanctions package published on 8 April will take effect on Easter Sunday morning, 17 April, at 0:00. The package includes a prohibition on access to ports in the territory of the European Union for vessels registered under the flag of Russia (1).

The sanctions package contains exceptions for certain types of cargo. Vessels sailing under the flag of Russia but falling within the exceptions may therefore still be allowed access to port. The exceptions relate to cargo such as oil and gas, refined petroleum products and a number of ores, pharmaceutical and medical products, agricultural and food products, and products for civil nuclear applications, as well as extending to vessels where humanitarian grounds apply (2).

A Russian vessel's master, agent, owner and cargo owner must ascertain whether the vessel falls within exceptions under which it can be allowed access. However, the Harbour Master will remain responsible for implementing the port access policy. Separately from this sanctions package, the European Union published a list of natural persons and entities against which restrictive measures have been imposed in the fourth sanctions package. That list also includes a number of vessels, to which certain exceptions apply (3).

If the situation changes, the information on this website will be updated accordingly.

(1) For the text of the European Regulation in its entirety, please see Publications Office (europa.eu), Ukraine and Russia (rvo.nl) (in Dutch only).

(2) The exception provisions are set out on pages 3 and 4 of the EU Regulation: Article 3ea(5)(a) to (e). This also refers to annexes with specific cargo numbers (CN Codes, set out in Annex XXII on page 33 and Annex XXIV on page 66).

(3) For the text of the European Regulation in its entirety, please see Publications Office (europa.eu) (in Dutch only).

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 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 to self-determination of countries are essential values and therefore not open to question.

More information

Frequently Asked Questions

Ship and container handling

How is shipping traffic coming from Russia being handled?

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

At the beginning of the war, Customs stopped all containers bound for Russia. What is the situation now?

Customs checks all containers on a regular basis. For the latest information, check the website of Customs (in Dutch only).

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?

About 110 ships arrive monthly in Rotterdam from Russia and about 90 ships depart monthly from Rotterdam to Russia.

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

Every month, about seven ships from Ukraine arrive in the port of Rotterdam. No ships leave for Ukraine.

How many Russian ships come to Rotterdam every year?

In 2021, an average of 13 Russian ships per month came to Rotterdam. In the first two months of this year, some 29 ships came to Rotterdam.

How many Ukrainian ships come to Rotterdam every year?

In 2021, no Ukrainian ships came to Rotterdam. And none this year either.

Volumes

How many containers are shipped between Russia and Rotterdam?

In 2021, 1,275,000 TEUs were shipped to and from Russia. This concerns import, export and transhipment cargo (incl. short sea). This is about 8% of the total container volume of the port of Rotterdam.

Is it true that the container terminals are no longer accepting cargo bound for Russia, and what does it mean?

A large number of container terminals (deep sea and short sea) and shipping companies (deep sea and short sea) have indicated that they will no longer handle cargo bound for Russia. This is due to the sanctions imposed on Russia and the uncertainty surrounding disruption to the operational process. It is up to the container terminals to decide how to handle Russian cargo. For more information, please contact the container terminals.

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 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 type of cargo is exported to Russia from the Netherlands?

From the Netherlands, the main exports are wood, pulp, paper, petroleum products and chemical and artificial fertilisers.

The total (import/export) volume in 2020 was 85 million tonnes. Of these, 73% were shipped via the port of Rotterdam. The remaining volume was transported via other Dutch ports or other modalities.

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

Is the port of Rotterdam closed to Russian shipping?

No, the port of Rotterdam is not closed to Russian shipping. The war in Ukraine has led to a number of sanctions against Russia imposed by, among others, the European Union. The substantial import of energy (crude oil, oil products, LNG, coal) is not (yet) affected by sanctions, but the export and transhipment of containers is affected by the uncertainty resulting from the invasion and the sanctions.

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. This requires logistical and contractual adjustments, but as such there is enough steel available in the world.

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.

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.