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

14 December 2022
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Laatste update: 14 december, 2022 - 15:20 uur

The Ukraine war has resulted in several countries (including the European Union) imposing sanctions on Russia. The latest, eighth round of sanctions adopted by the European Council on 22 October imposed a price cap on crude oil from Russia and prohibits the import of steel, steel products, machines and certain chemical agents. Previously, the EU imposed a ban on the import of Russian oil and petroleum products.

These energy products are subject to a transition period. For crude oil, this period of transition ends on 5 December 2022, while for petroleum products, it will end on 5 February 2023. Shipping companies had already significantly reduced the number of containers they ship to and from Russia due to the war and the resulting 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 included in the eighth sanction package announced by the European Union on 22 October 2022 entered into effect on that date. Among other things, the Round-8 sanctions include:

  • A price cap for imported Russian oil. This price cap does not alter the ban on importing oil through ports. This ban on importing Russian oil remains in full force and effect.
  • A ban on the import of steel and steel products, machines and devices, plastics, vehicles, textiles, shoes, leather, ceramics and certain chemical agents.
  • A ban on transactions enacted with the Russian Maritime Register, which has been added to the list of Russian state-owned enterprises with which no transactions must be enacted.

Previous rounds of sanctions governed things such as a ban on vessels registered under the Russian flag entering ports on the territory of the European Union (1) and a ban on the import of raw materials.

For instance, Rounds 5 and 6 of the sanctions comprised:

  • A ban on the import of Russian oil and petroleum products
  • A ban on financing and insuring the transport of oil and petroleum products
  • Restrictions on the export of chemical agents that could be used to produce chemical weapons
  • A ban on the import of coals and other solid fossil fuels from Russia
  • A ban on entry to EU ports for all Russian vessels
  • A ban on access to EU roads for Russian and Belarussian road hauliers
  • A ban on the import of other goods such as wood, cement, fishery products and alcohol
  • A ban on the export to Russia of aeroplane fuel and other types of goods

The fifth round of sanctions includes several derogations for certain types of cargo. In other words, vessels sailing under the Russian flag that come under the terms of the derogations may still be granted entry to European ports. On top of this package of sanctions, the European Union has published a list of natural persons and entities who are subject to restrictions. Several vessels are included in this list. Certain derogations apply to these vessels.

The sea captain, agent, shipping company and owner of the cargo of any Russian vessel must seek to determine whether any derogations apply to the vessel or its cargo, on the grounds of which the vessel may be granted entry to a port. The Harbour Master will continue to be responsible for the implementation of the port’s entry policy.

(1) For the full text of the European regulation, see: Publication office (Europa.eu)Ukraine and Russia (rvo.nl) Dutch only

(2) The derogations can be found on pp. 3-4 of the EU Regulation: Article 3b(5)(a-e). This regulation also includes annexes listing specific cargo numbers (CN codes, included in Annex XXII on p. 33 and in Annex XXIV on p. 66).

Douanecontrole

The European Union has banned the import and export of a large number of goods. Cargo with a Russian provenance or intended to be transported to Russia will undergo additional inspections to make sure that none of the goods being transported are on the list of banned products. The Dutch Customs Authority monitors the import and export of goods and checks whether any of the goods being transported are subject to restrictive measures.

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

Veelgestelde vragen

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 vessels have called at Rotterdam from Russian ports and vice versa?

In 2022, a total of 739 vessels arrived in Rotterdam that had come from a Russian port. In other words, a monthly average of 62 vessels called at Rotterdam, with decreasing frequency: 106, 88, 99, 90, 74, 61, 60, 48, 37, 32, 36, 8.

In 2022, 509 vessels departed directly for a Russian port. This means that on average, 42 vessels departed each month, with decreasing frequency: 80, 69, 72, 67, 43, 33, 41, 26, 25, 17, 32, 4.

How many vessels have called at Rotterdam from Ukrainian ports and vice versa?

So far, 21 vessels have arrived in Rotterdam from Ukraine in 2022. This means that on average, 2 vessels arrived each month, with decreasing frequency: 6, 6, 5, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 2, 0.

In 2022, a total of 3 vessels departed (in January, February and October) for a port in Ukraine.

How many Russian vessels call at Rotterdam annually?

In 2022, a total of 87 vessels under the Russian flag arrived (an average of 7 vessels monthly), with decreasing frequency: 20, 13, 20, 12, 7, 4, 1, 2, 2, 4, 1, 1 monthly.

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

In the first half of 2022, the Harbour Master of Rotterdam denied one Russian vessel entry to the port of Rotterdam. Since then, several vessels have initially been refused entry to the port of Rotterdam because it was unclear at the time whether the vessel and/or its cargo were subject to the restrictive measures or to the derogations from the restrictive measures. Such investigations may take several hours to several days for each vessel. Generally, the Harbour Master relies on information obtained from the Dutch Customs Authority and the Coast Guard. Vessels under the Russian flag are also subject to authorisation by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

How many Ukrainian vessels call at Rotterdam annually?

In 2021 and 2022, no Ukrainian vessels called at the port of Rotterdam.

What kinds of vessels are subject to the restrictions?

Since 16 April 2022, it has been prohibited to grant access to ports on the territory of the European Union to vessels registered under the Russian flag. It is also prohibited to import Russian coal and crude oil into the European Union. Under certain conditions, exceptions are made for vessels carrying a certain cargo. For more information, see the EU regulation (Article 3): Publication Office (europa.eu). You can also find more information / ask your question via the website of RVO: Information on sanctions Russia (rvo.nl, Dutch only)

Volumes

How many containers are being shipped from Russia to Rotterdam and vice versa?

In 2021, 1,275,000 TEU’s worth of containers were shipped from Russia to Rotterdam and vice versa. They were import, export and transhipment cargo (including shortsea shipping). Together they made up about 8% of the total container volumes shipped via the port of Rotterdam.

Between 1 January and 1 December 2022, 255,000 TEU’s worth of cargo related to Russia were transhipped in Rotterdam (deepsea/feeder and shortsea). Most of this volume was achieved at the start of the aforementioned period, i.e. before the restrictions were imposed.

What type of cargo arrived in the Netherlands from Russia?

The Russian exports to the Netherlands mostly concerned crude oil, petroleum products, coal, steel, copper, aluminium and nickel. By now the EU has imposed restrictions on the import of steel, coal and oil, and starting from February, the import of petroleum products will be prohibited, too. For now, non-ferrous metals are not subject to any sanctions, but the trade in such Russian metals has sharply decreased.

What kinds of things can no longer be imported due to the sanctions that have been imposed?

The sanctions that have been imposed govern both imports and exports. A list of products that are subject to these sanctions can be found on the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO)’s website (Dutch only), which has the most up-to-date overview.

Is reefer cargo (more specifically, perishable goods) also subject to the restrictions?

No, at present perishable goods are not subject to the restrictions, meaning they may be exported to Russia.

How are the sanctions affecting the import of coal?

The import of Russian coal has been prohibited since 10 August 2022. EU member states are no longer allowed to import Russian coal. In 2021, 23.4 million tonnes of coal were shipped to Rotterdam, 25% of which (5.9 million tonnes) were originally from Russia. Since August, no Russian coal has been unloaded in Rotterdam.

In the first ten months of 2022, the port of Rotterdam transhipped 20% more coal than in the same period last year. The increase mainly concerned the re-export of coal to be shipped to power plants in Germany.

Sanctions and impact

What impact will the oil embargo that will come into effect at the end of the year have?

For the time being, the ban on the import of Russian oil, which entered into effect on Monday, 5 December 2022, will mainly result in major changes to global oil trade flows. The boycott of Russian petroleum products that will enter into effect on 5 February 2023 is expected to have a greater impact, particularly with regard to the availability of diesel.

Globally, the production and consumption of oil will remain at a similar level, but due to the boycott, Russian oil will no longer be imported via Rotterdam. This oil will now go to countries that are choosing not to boycott Russian oil, such as India, Turkey and China. And some of the oil that used to go to those countries will now come to Europe instead – for instance, oil from the Middle East and the United States.

This may sound quite simple, but it is anything but. It constitutes a major disruption to the global energy system, which will ultimately (temporarily) impact the availability and prices of various petroleum products. Among other things, the boycott of Russian oil means that larger distances must now be covered on sea, which requires more money, and not all oil refineries are equally suited to the processing of all types of crude oil. The composition of crude oil differs from source to source, results in different products and may mean that some refineries must be modified to be able to process them.

Is less Russian oil now being imported to Rotterdam?

Well in advance of the import ban on Russian oil, many refineries in Rotterdam made a decision to stop processing Russian oil and to purchase alternative but suitable types of oil and modify their processing process instead.

Is the port of Rotterdam closed to Russian vessels?

Since 16 April 2022, it has been prohibited to grant access to ports on the territory of the European Union to vessels registered under the Russian flag. It is also prohibited to import Russian coal and crude oil into the European Union. Under certain conditions, exceptions are made for vessels carrying a certain cargo. For more information, see the EU regulation (Article 3): Publication Office (europa.eu). You can also find more information / ask your question via the website of RVO: Information on sanctions Russia (rvo.nl, Dutch only)

How will the companies situated in the port be affected?

That is hard to say at present. Deltalinqs represents the joint interests of over 95% of all logistics, port and industrial companies in Mainport Rotterdam and keeps a close eye on the latest developments.

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.