04-15-2010 - Throughput in the port of Rotterdam has increased sharply. In the first quarter of this year, 107 million tonnes of goods were handled, 14% more than in the same period of 2009. Most types of goods were up: iron ore and scrap (+ 77%), other dry bulk (+ 32%), mineral oil products (+30%), containers (+21%), other liquid bulk (+ 7%), roll on/roll off (+8%). Throughput figures for agribulk (- 32%) and coal were down (-17%) and those for other general cargo and crude oil remained virtually unchanged.

Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO: “The recovery in comparison with 2009 is very marked, but I prefer to compare it to 2008. That was a top year and up to now we are getting close to it. I’m remaining non-committal though because consumers are still reserved and governments are making massive cuts. The growth will level off. The question is, will the port be able to make up for last year’s 8% decline this year in one go. That would be a wonderful achievement.”

Dry bulk
The increase in imports of iron ore, to 9.4 million tonnes, runs parallel to the increasing utilisation of   blast furnace capacity. This year, that is expected to end up at 80%. Alongside this, there is sure to be a loss of over 2 million tonnes per annum, due to the closure of a blast furnace in Liege.

The handling of coke coal is increasing, parallel to that of ore. Demand for coal for energy production increased less sharply than anticipated on the basis of the cold winter. However, the higher emission rights make it more expensive to burn coal than natural gas.

Throughput figures for other dry bulk (minerals, construction materials, biomass) rose by almost a third, to 2.8 million tonnes. Demand from the chemical industry and the metal industry is clearly picking up, whilst the construction sector continues to lag behind.

Agribulk was down by a third, for both incoming and outgoing trade: 1.5 million tonnes. This harvest year, there has been less need for raw produce from overseas. In addition to this, a temporary disruption of soya imports from Argentina was solved with rapeseed from Europe.

Liquid bulk 
Imports of crude oil remained virtually unchanged, at close on 25 million tonnes. The product margins in Rotterdam have increased due to the closure of refineries elsewhere in Europe and great demand from Asia.
These developments also had a positive impact on the handling of mineral oil products. In addition to this, a large amount of cargo was first brought in from tankers parked at sea and then re-exported after processing. For the umpteenth time in a row, the sector therefore recorded a substantial increase, this time 30%, to 22 million tonnes.

Other liquid bulk (chemical basic products, vegetable oils and fats, fruit juices) are recovering slightly, to 8 million tonnes, due to higher demand from industry.

General cargo
Throughput figures for containers continued the upward trend of the last quarter of 2009: over 20% up, to 22 million tonnes. Measured in units of 20 feet, growth was 16%, to 2.6 million TEU. This positive state of affairs is due largely to the trade with Asia. Intra-European traffic, which leans heavily on the British Isles, lagged behind. Despite this, roll on/roll off traffic, concentrated almost wholly on England, picked up slightly: by over 7% to 4 million tonnes.

The transhipment of other general cargo has hardly moved from the low level of 1.4 million tonnes. European demand is covered by European producers of iron and steel, accounting for about half of  mixed cargo throughput. Intercontinental trade still has to get going.

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