The Russia-Ukraine conflict is driving bulk carrier congestion at Europe’s busiest port, according to a new report from VesselsValue.
Since the outbreak of war in late February, the average waiting time for bulk carriers in Rotterdam has often been above the high end of its three-year range. However, over the seven week period from May 9th to June 29th, VesselsValue points out that waiting times shot up from 48 hours to a peak of 186 hours before easing to 113 hours. Despite this easing, however, waiting times remain very high for the time of year.
Dry bulk imports into Northwest Europe have been steadily recovering since the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic in mid 2020. But VesselsValue points out that growth has accelerated since the Russian invasion and volumes are now higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Much of this increase is driven by flows from within Europe. In the April to June, trade flows from within the region increased by 6.9 million tons, or 21% on the same period last year. Intra-Northwest Europe trade was 8.2 million tons higher, more than offsetting a 2.9 million ton drop in imports from the Baltic Sea region, where there are several key Russian ports.
The second biggest driver is trade from Africa, which rose by 4.6 million tons or 72% (01 April to 30 June ’22 vs 01 April to 30 June ’21), and particularly South Africa, which contributed 3.0 million tons of the increase, according to VesselsValue.
“European power utilities have been eager buyers of South African coal, despite high prices, in the wake of a ban on Russian cargoes. This has lifted coal trade from South Africa to Northwest Europe to levels not seen since 2014. Rotterdam in The Netherlands is the region’s main coal import terminal, but several other countries, including France, Germany, Italy, and Poland, received cargoes, having imported no coal at all from South Africa in the year ago period,” VesselsValue said.
“This knock-on effect from the conflict and wider global energy crisis will be a key near term indicator for the Dry Bulk and European power sectors,” the report added.
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