Cargo throughput at Port of Rotterdam increases by 0.8% in 2011 to 433 million tonnes, up 3 million tonnes over previous record in 2010; agribulk rose 18% year-over-year, containers 10% and dry bulk 7%

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands , December 30, 2011 (press release) – Cargo throughput in the Port of Rotterdam increased by 0.8% in 2011 to 433 million tonnes; 3 million tonnes more than the previous record year, 2010. Supply grew by 0.8% to 308 million tonnes and distribution by 0.7% to 126 million tonnes. There was a decrease in throughput of iron ore and scrap (-6%), crude oil (-8%) and mineral oil products (-6%). More agribulk (+18%), coal (+12%), other dry bulk (+7%), other liquid bulk (+2%), containers (+10%), roll-on/roll-off (+4%) and other general cargo (+13%) were handled.

Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO: “We are recording growth for the ninth time in ten years, in spite of the disappointing economy and the fall in growth of throughput since November in the port. This demonstrates the importance of ongoing investment in capacity and new activities, such as the storage of LNG and the production of bio-ethanol. The largest growth areas were transhipment of containers, coal and agribulk.

Throughput in the port is strongly-connected to developments in relevant world trade and German industrial production. On the basis of this, we expect to maintain the current level next year. In the second half of the year, I expect that we will have put the European confidence crisis behind us. Businesses and the Port Authority will continue investing in such things as Maasvlakte 2, container and tank terminals, because we also expect reasonable growth as from 2013”.

Dry bulk

The total quantity of dry bulk handled increased by 3% to 87 million tonnes.
Throughput of coal increased by 12% to 27 million tonnes. Closure of blast furnaces led to a reduction in demand for coking coal, and mine closures meant a further fall in German supplies. Demand for energy coal, 60% of Rotterdam’s total, remained under expectation for the first 9 months because of Germany’s use of much wind, solar and nuclear energy from France and the Czech Republic. Following the decision to disconnect the German nuclear power stations, demand for coal increased quickly and dramatically. A stabilisation in coal throughput is expected for next year.

The throughput of ore and scrap fell by 6% to 38 million tonnes. In the first half year, supply was poor because 2010 stores were being used. Distribution to the hinterland was at the usual level. In the second half of the year, steel production was scaled-down, including closure of blast furnaces in Liège, Florange and Eisenhüttenstadt. A further reduction is expected. The effect on throughput so far is limited because throughput towards the end of 2010 was also low because of high stores.

Other dry bulk (minerals, ore concentrates, construction materials) grew by 7% to 13 million tonnes. The largest users of this segment, the chemical and the metals industry, maintained a continued high level of production. The third large customer, the building sector, remained weak. Throughput of biomass increased by a few hundred thousand tonnes. Rotterdam now has an approximate 30% share in the Western-European import of wood pellets. An exceptional amount of (grit) salt was imported in 2011.

Throughput of agribulk (grain, oil seeds, derivatives) increased by 18% to 10 million tonnes. The disappointing European rape seed and wheat crop, in combination with a Russian export ban in the first six months, resulted in increases in imports by sea. The temporary reduction of import tariffs on food grain also contributed to this. Also important was the start of the Abengoa bio-ethanol factory, for which, just by sea, 600,000 tonnes of grain had already been supplied. An unknown quantity arrived by train from the European hinterland.

Liquid bulk

The throughput volume of liquid bulk fell by 6% to 179 million tonnes. Supply of crude oil dropped by 8% to 92 million tonnes. Refinery production is low because of high oil prices and low demand for products in Northwest Europe. The minimal to negative refinery margin resulted some of the major repairs being transferred to this year. This meant that imports fell to an historically low level.

Supply of oil products shrank by 3% to 42 million tonnes, distribution by 10% to 31 million tonnes. In total 73 million tonnes (-6%) was handled. The reduction is mainly attributed to the, relatively unique, release of floating storage in 2010. This concerned a lot of gas oil/diesel. Supply of fuel oil, in volume the largest product, increased slightly. In contrast, paraffin imports and petrol exports fell.

The throughput of other liquid bulk increased slightly, by 1% to 32 million tonnes. The European chemical industry grew slightly, with a decline towards the end of the year. In the bulk chemical sector, more methanol was handled, both incoming and outgoing. High prices resulted in a reduction in palm oil imports. The import of rape seed oil (from France and Canada) increased because of the disappointing German crop. Throughput of biofuels decreased, mainly because of the decline in Brazilian bio-ethanol production.

Containers and breakbulk

Container-handling improved by 10% compared to last year. Growth in units from 20 foot was more than 6% to 11.9 million TEU. The difference indicates that fewer empty containers were handled. Rotterdam further expanded its position in the quantitatively largest trade, that between Europe and Asia. On this route increasingly more 10,000 – 15,000 TEU vessels are being used, which are able to enter more easily here than at competitor ports. Also, the transhipment directly linked to deep-sea vessels, especially those for the Baltics, continued to perform well. Throughput of intra-European containers, short-sea, grew slightly.

The roll-on/roll-off sector in Rotterdam focuses almost entirely on the British market, where the economy is seeing modest growth. This limited the growth in ferry services to 4% and throughput to a tight 18 million tonnes. Financial margins remain paper-thin, not least because of tough competition, also within Rotterdam.

Other general cargo continued to grow, this year by 13%. The tight 8 million tonnes of cargo comprises the growth products, steel, metals (aluminium, copper etc.) and project cargo including paper and wood products, cars and fruit. The latter product is now being supplied largely by container.

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.