Throughput in port of Rotterdam falls by 6.0% in first three quarters

23 October 2023
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In the first nine months of 2023, there was 6% less throughput in the port of Rotterdam: 329.9 million tonnes compared to 351.0 million tonnes in the same period in 2022. The decline was mainly related to the throughput of containers and coal. Throughput of iron ore and scrap, agricultural bulk and LNG increased.

The drop in the total throughput volume is the direct consequence of limited growth in the global economy and geopolitical tensions, which are driving falling world trade volumes and lower industrial production.

Maasvlakte 2 photographed from a bird's eye view
Photo: Martens Multimedia

Boudewijn Siemons, interim CEO and COO of Port of Rotterdam Authority: “As we expected, the throughput in the first nine months was lower than last year but is in line with our prognoses. The economy has not yet recovered and this continues to impact throughput figures. In spite of less throughput, we are committed to investing in a vital and climate-neutral port. In the third quarter, we reached an important milestone in the CO2 transport and storage project, Porthos. After a positive ruling by the Council of State in August, the definitive investment decision was taken in October and construction will begin as soon as possible. Thanks to Porthos, some 2.5 million tonnes of CO2will be captured annually and stored.”

Dry bulk

The dry bulk segment declined by a total of 11.9% in the first nine months of the year. Although steel production dropped, the throughput of iron ore and scrap increased (6.8%). In recent months, blast furnaces were operating steadily and stocks of ore have been replenished. Coal throughput fell significantly (-16.8%), mainly because less coal was fired in power plants. The plants had stiff competition from solar, wind and gas. Therefore, several coal-fired power plants were left idle in recent months. The growth of agribulk (40.7%) and drop in other dry bulk (-53.6%) is distorted due to administrative corrections. Without this skewed result, the increase in the agribulk segment was 4.6%. This is mainly because more soy was imported from South America. After correction, the throughput of other dry bulk fell by -23.9% due to lower demand for raw materials for construction and industrial production. In addition, this type of cargo was more frequently transported in containers due to the lower container rates.

Liquid bulk

The liquid bulk segment experienced a drop of 2.4%. The throughput of LNG rose slightly by 0.4%, as more LNG was imported to replace Russian pipeline gas. The other segments show a slight decline in throughput. Specifically, the throughput of crude oil fell by 1.9% as a result of increased maintenance work to the refineries, which reduced the supply of crude oil. Mineral oil products dropped by 3.1% because less fuel oil is transported via Rotterdam following the sanctions on Russian oil products. Similarly, the categories within the segment other liquid bulk (including chemical products, biofuels, vegetable/animal oils and fruit juices) fell by 3.5%. Higher energy costs and lower capacity utilisation rates at plants in Europe meant that existing stocks were pared down.

Containers and breakbulk

Global demand for freight is still lower than in 2022 as a result of inflation, limited economic growth, geopolitical tensions and higher spending on services rather than products. This has a knock-on effect on the throughput of containers in Rotterdam. The container segment saw a decline of 8.1% in weight and 7.2% in the number of containers (TEU, twenty feet equivalent unit) in the first nine months. The transhipment volumes increased by 8.1% in the third quarter of 2023.

In addition, roll-on/roll-off traffic (-3.8%) and other general cargo (-13.7%) fell as a result of reduced consumer spending, large stocks and lower investments. The total throughput in the breakbulk segment therefore fell by 6.0%.