In the first quarter, goods throughput in Rotterdam was 7.2% up on the same period of last year. Dry bulk (particularly ores and coal) fell by 5.1%. Container throughput increased substantially, by 5.1% in weight and 7.6% in TEU. Liquid bulk throughput (particularly crude oil and oil products) grew even more notably, by 14.7%.
Allard Castelein, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO: ‘The port had a very strong first quarter. The positive trend in the handling of mineral oil products and LNG is striking. After declining last year, oil products are now experiencing a strong recovery. LNG throughput is even growing in triple figures and is really getting into its stride. Container throughput is also increasing sharply. Last year Rotterdam grew faster in this sector than rival ports. An increase of almost 8% combined with two new terminals on Maasvlakte 2 is generating a lot of confidence in the development of this sector in the coming years.’
Total throughput of dry bulk fell by 5.1% to 21.9 million tonnes. Ore imports were 6.8% down as a result of a decrease in imports for the German steel industry. Steel consumption might be increasing slightly, but more steel is being imported from, among other places, China. Coal throughput fell by 1.1%. Both last winter and this winter were mild, which led to a relatively low demand for energy coal. Agribulk throughput was 12.4% down due to the good harvests in Europe and the weak euro, which made imports by sea less necessary and attractive. In the first quarter, 3.9% less other dry bulk was handled.
Liquid bulk throughput increased by 14.7% to 56.5 million tonnes. All sectors recorded a rise here. 6.9% more crude oil was handled, which indicates that refinery margins have improved thanks to the low price of oil and that more oil was refined. The increase in the handling of mineral oil products of no less than 27.6% is almost solely due to the increase in fuel oil throughput. As more oil was refined, more fuel oil is available, especially in Russia, where there is particular demand from the Far East. At the same time, demand for fuel oil for bunkering ships in Northwest Europe has fallen slightly because, since 1 January, more stringent standards have applied to ship fuel used on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. In total, 26 very large tankers (VLCCs and Suezmaxes) departed, fully laden with mainly Russian fuel oil, for the Far East. LNG did even better, with an increase of 138%, but this relatively new category of goods currently only accounts for 1% of liquid bulk. Other liquid bulk was 4.9% up. This mainly concerns basic chemical products, vegetable oils and biofuels. Among other things, more LPG and styrene were handled.
Containers, general cargo
Container throughput rose in terms of TEU (the standard size for containers) by 7.6% to 3.1 million TEU and in tonnes by 5.1% to 32 million tonnes. This means that container throughput easily maintained its strong growth of 2014 (6% in TEU), despite the fact that some terminals are currently experiencing bottlenecks due to the heavy workload. The growth can be explained by the economic recovery in Europe and the relocation of transhipment cargo from other ports to Rotterdam. This concerns containers which are transported via a large port like Rotterdam to smaller ports in Northwest Europe. The difference between the growth figures in TEUs and tonnes is the result of an increase in the number of empty containers that are transhipped and the strong growth in trade with Asia. Containers to and from Asia are lighter, on average, than those travelling to and from America.
In recent months container shipping continued to increase in scale. In the last quarter the record for ‘largest container vessel in the world’ was broken twice, and it has now been announced that MOL (four 20,150 TEU vessels on order), CMA CGM (three 20,600 TEU vessels) and OOCL (six 21,100 vessels) will set new records. Rotterdam does well from this development because it is much more easily accessible for such ships than rival ports. That is translated, among other things, into a 70% increase in the number of second calls in the first quarter to 51. Ships sail between Asia and Europe on a fixed schedule and are increasingly using Rotterdam as the first and last port of call.
Breakbulk throughput was 4.4% up, to 6.4 million tonnes. Roll-on/roll-off traffic, focused primarily on the UK, grew 10.6% due to the strong British economy and strong British Pound. Other general cargo fell by 17.1% compared to 2014, which was exceptionally good. This mainly concerns steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, fruit and project cargo.