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Port of Rotterdam sees record cargo throughput in 2010

Mike Schuler
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January 4, 2011

In 2010, cargo throughput in the port of Rotterdam rose to 430 million tonnes. This is 11.1 % more than in 2009 and 2.1% more than in the previous record year 2008. Imports increased by 12% to 306 million tonnes, while exports rose by 9% to 124 million tonnes. Bulk was up by 11%, likewise containers/breakbulk. Coal throughput fell by almost 2 percent while agribulk remained stable. Other types of cargo showed an increase: ore and scrap (71%), other dry bulk (22%), crude oil (4%), mineral oil products (7%), other liquid bulk (8%), containers (12%), roll on/roll off (5%) and other general cargo (16%).

Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO: “This result is above expectations. Record throughput by the port while the Port of Rotterdam Authority invested a record sum of €460 million. This year throughput was particularly stimulated by the 15% growth in world trade and the flourishing German economy. In 2011, government cutbacks will be more strongly felt throughout Europe. On the other hand, Rotterdam will continue to feel and pass on the heartbeat of the world economy. I am therefore cautiously optimistic about throughput which I expect to grow by 2 to 3 percent to around 440 million tonnes”.

Dry bulk
The total throughput of dry bulk cargo increased by almost 28% to 85 million tonnes.

Coal throughput fell by 1.7% to 24 million tonnes. Steam coal consumption decreased due to a decline in energy demand due to the economic downturn and low natural gas prices. In addition, stocks built up in 2009 were eaten into. Throughput of cokes coal, around 40% of coal imports into Rotterdam, rose in parallel with the increasing trend in steel production. In 2011, an increase in coal throughput up to 25-26 million tonnes is realistic because stocks have been reduced. Structurally, coal remains a growth product as a result of the mine closures in Germany.

Ore and scrap throughput leapt by +71% to almost 40 million tonnes once again. Demand for steel showed a strong increase largely due to German automobile manufacturers. Furthermore, extra ore imports were required for the – temporary – production of steel slabs by ThyssenKrupp for the United States. In the fourth quarter, throughput was lower due to high stock levels and temporary capacity reductions at steel plants. Expectations for 2011 are moderately positive. Despite rises in the price of raw materials, a slight increase in the production of iron and steel is expected. Consequently, a cautious prediction of a maximum throughput of 41 million tonnes is possible.

Other dry bulk cargo (minerals, ore concentrates, building materials) increased by over 22% to 12.5 million tonnes. This is 4% higher than the level before the crisis. The most important consumers in this sector – the chemical and metal industries – recovered well. The third major consumer, the building sector, is late cyclical and for the time being continues to generate little demand. Because recovery of the steel sector is also uncertain, little growth is expected in 2011 in throughput of other dry bulk cargo.

Throughput of agribulk (grains, oil seeds, derivatives) remained stable at 8.4 million tonnes. The European 2009-2010 harvest year was good and this always places pressure on imports via Rotterdam. The 2010-2011 harvest year is considerably lower and this had the immediate effect of stimulating imports in the last quarter of 2010. On the other hand, the ADM crushing plant imported less soy from overseas due to imports of rapeseed from the European hinterland.

Liquid bulk
The throughput volume of liquid bulk rose by just under 6% to 209 million tonnes. Imports of crude oil increased by 4% to 100 million tonnes, the level of 2008. Demand for oil products in Western Europe suffered from the crisis and led to either closure or reduced production of less efficient refineries in Northern France and Northern Germany. This was to the advantage of the larger and more flexible refineries in Rotterdam. As a result, they were able to maintain a good position in the increasingly global competitive struggle.
Imports of oil products rose by 1% to almost 43 million tonnes, exports by 15% to just over 34 million tonnes. In total, a record throughput of 77 million tonnes (+7%) was (once again) achieved. This sector has been growing enormously for some ten years now. In the first quarter of 2009 in particular, stocks from floating storage were decreased due to rising prices (contango effect) and the recovering economy. Much use was also made of geographic price differences (arbitrage). Arbitrage also attracts Russian products to Rotterdam, particularly fuel oil and gas oil (diesel). In Rotterdam, blending is done to specification for Asia in particular. Furthermore, since VLCCs often become available in Rotterdam after discharging crude oil, the return transport is relatively cheap.

Throughput of other liquid bulk increased by just under 8% to almost 32 million tonnes. The most important reason for this is the increase in production of around 5% by the European chemical industry. In addition, many stocks were replenished at the beginning of this year and exports showed strong growth. Imports of vegetable oils, especially palm oil, slightly declined. Exports remained stable. Throughput of biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol and ETBE) has not yet succeeded in achieving an upward trend. Ethanol imports from Brazil fell, in favour of the United States and European countries. However, exports increased, particularly to the UK. On balance, ethanol throughput showed a slight decline. The UK is also the most important destination for biodiesel which showed a substantial downturn in throughput.

Containers and breakbulk
Handling of containers improved by almost 12% in comparison with last year and at 112 million tonnes was once again the most important cargo category in Rotterdam. Growth in TEU (Twenty foot Equivalent Units) was back to “normal” increases this year (Rotterdam is also an empty container hub): up 14% to 11.1 million TEU. Rotterdam further expanded its position in the quantitatively biggest trade route, that between Europe and Asia. More and more ships of steadily increasing size are being used on this route and these are able to call at Rotterdam more easily than at competing ports. Transhipment (directly related to deepsea ships) of cargo heading for the Baltic region also did well. Other transhipment regions are declining: the UK/Ireland as a result of competition from the English ports, while Spain/Portugal is showing a geographic shift. However, throughput of intra-European containers, ‘shortsea’, to these regions is increasing once again: a small increase to the UK, a substantial increase to the Iberian peninsula and a very strong increase to Russia.

The roll-on / roll-off sector in Rotterdam is virtually entirely focused on the British market where the economy is still slowly recovering. This limited the growth of ferry services to 7% and a throughput of 17 million tonnes. This sector is still 6% below the level of 2008 while financial margins are too low. An endeavour is being made to boost these by rationalization (fewer sailings but with larger vessels, the takeover of Norfolkline by DFDS).

The other general cargo sector made up for its loss in 2009 exactly with a 16% profit.

The 7 million tonne cargo consists of the growth products steel and project cargo, paper and wood products, metals (aluminium, copper etc.), automobiles and fruit. This year, the port area used for handling breakbulk was effectively increased by 26 hectares.

Appendix: Cargo throughput in the port of Rotterdam January – December 2009 and 2010 (provisional)
Throughput 4th quarter 2010

More information
Facts and figures

Source: Port of Rotterdam

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