Allard Castelein, CEO Port of Rotterdam Authority: “The continued growth in container throughput is a confirmation that Rotterdam is taking an increasingly important position in the maritime connection networks of large shipping company alliances. We are seeing a somewhat more measured growth after the significant growth last year, and this is entirely in accordance with our expectations.”
In total, liquid bulk throughput remained almost constant with a slight growth of 0.5% to 55.9 million tonnes. Within this segment, less crude oil (-4.5%; 25.4 million tonnes) was transported than in the first quarter of last year. This difference is mainly a result of an exceptionally high throughput last year. The throughput of mineral oil products, which fell structurally throughout last year, saw an upward trend again last quarter (+4.8%). The fall in the supply and distribution of fuel oil has halted. In the first quarter, the throughput of LNG was much higher than last year (+210%; 0.7 million tonnes), with a record volume of over 500,000 tonnes in February. This growth concerned both the supply and distribution of LNG. This confirms the importance of Rotterdam as LNG trading hub.
Within the dry bulk segment, iron ore & scrap and coal are the main commodities. The throughput of both fell slightly: the throughput of iron ore & scrap by 9.3% to 7.1 million tonnes, and the throughput of coal by 19.0% to 6.5 million tonnes. The fall in iron ore throughput occurred mainly in January, in contrast with a high throughput volume last year. The volume in the other two months of the first quarter is in line with that of last year. The fall in coal is largely because of the decrease in supply for power plants as a consequence of last year’s closure of older power plants in Germany and the Netherlands. Agricultural bulk throughput fell by 8.2% to 2.6 million tonnes as a consequence of a poor soya harvest in Argentina. Other dry bulk also fell considerably by 20.4% to 2.4 million tonnes. This fall was mainly caused by reduced production among mineral purchasers. All in all, dry bulk throughput decreased by 13.6% to 18.8 million tonnes.
Container throughput increased 4.6% by weight to 35.9 million tonnes and 6.1% by volume to 3.5 million TEU (the standard unit for containers). This growth is a continuation of the significant increase realised last year and is mainly a consequence of increased throughput performance of the port’s large container terminals. This is also necessary as the shipping companies that operate in Rotterdam in three large alliances view Rotterdam as an important hub in their networks, which means an increased concentration of cargo throughput in Rotterdam. This resulted in feeder volumes continuing to increase significantly by 7.5% to 0.6 million TEU. Feeder vessels transport containers with intercontinental cargo to and from other ports that are not visited directly by intercontinental (‘deep sea’) services. An increasing exchange is also taking place in Rotterdam between deep sea services, which enable shipping companies to offer their clients more combinations between loading and unloading ports in Asia and Europe. New connections with the eastern section of the Mediterranean also resulted in an increase in shortsea throughput by 6.9% to 0.7 million TEU.
RoRo and other general cargo
The total throughput in the breakbulk segment (Roll-on/roll-off and other cargo) fell by 4.7% to 7.2 million tonnes. RoRo traffic increased slightly by 0.8% to 5.8 million tonnes compared with the first quarter of last year, partly because of an expansion of RoRo vessel handling capacity at one of the Rotterdam terminals. The throughput of other cargo was significantly lower than the high level of the first quarter of 2017 (-22.2% to 1.4 million tonnes) as the additional throughput of steel in the form of slabs stopped again this year. This flow last year was a consequence of blast furnace renovations in Germany, resulting in a temporary return in steel production. During the last period, almost no wind turbine foundations were loaded for positioning in offshore wind farms. This is expected to increase in the second quarter.