Over the past few weeks, the Port Authority has received a number of signals about increasing waiting times for inland vessels at the container terminals in Rotterdam’s port area. Various inland shipping and transport organisations in the Netherlands and abroad have expressed their concerns about what they see as overly long waiting times – both in the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp.
Of course, as the Port Authority, we take these concerns very seriously. We realise that companies may well experience regularly-increasing waiting times as a structural problem, and that they have a strong need for reliability in the throughput of inland shipping flows. Over the past few months, a variety of incidental factors have resulted in periods in which the waiting times for barge shipments rose to above-average levels. Rotterdam recorded a strong increase in container throughput in the first half of 2017, with the port handling up to 9 percent more containers than in the preceding term. In the same period, the port was also required to adapt to the alliances’ new sailing schedules, while two terminals were affected by a cyber-attack – as a result of which hardly any containers could be loaded or unloaded at their facilities for a week-and-a-half.
The Port Authority is constantly working together with the port’s private sector to further improve the high level of efficiency in the port area. The partners have taken a variety of initiatives that are intended to have a positive structural impact on the handling of the container flow to Rotterdam’s hinterland. Examples include the Container Exchange Route (CER) between the terminals, a study into our options to set up a complementary barge hub, and digital solutions like NextLogic that allow for a more effective planning. We have also initiated various measures that will yield results in the short term. In 2016, Kramer was assigned as a barge hub in connection with anti-congestion measures taken at that time. We have made intensive use of this option over the past few months. In addition, the Port Authority is currently in talks with inland shipping operators and terminals regarding the implementation of additional short-term solutions.
The recent communications about longer waiting times and possible improvements call for an in-depth discussion (beginning of September) with all stakeholders from the sector: from barge operators to terminals, shipping companies, freight forwarders and shippers. I am certain that working together, we will be able to devise a number of possible solutions for the present bottlenecks. After all, we all have a shared interest in the reliable and efficient handling of inland container transports from and to Rotterdam.