The amount of cargo handled in the port of Rotterdam decreased by 11.9% to 283 million tonnes in the first nine months of this year. Almost every type of cargo displayed negative growth: iron and scrap metal (-56%), agribulk (-18%), coal (-17%), other dry bulk (-19%), crude oil (-7%), other liquid bulk (-19%), containers (-12%), roll on/roll off (-13%), and other general cargo (-23%). Only the petroleum products showed growth, and strong growth at that, increasing by 21% to 22 million tonnes.

As a result, the total throughput of liquid bulk remained virtually constant at 147 million tonnes. Dry bulk throughput decreased sharply, shedding a third to 46 million tonnes. General cargo came somewhere in-between, with a decrease of 12% to 89 million tonnes.

CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Hans Smits, has responded to the figures saying, ‘There is still a hefty decrease in terms of percentages, but the trend curve has started turning slightly upwards again since July. On balance, this means a stabilisation in throughput. This corresponds to expectations from halfway through the year, according to which the prognosis for the whole year is a decrease in throughput of approximately 10%.’

Dry bulk
The throughput of agribulk (grains, seeds, raw materials for animal feeds) decreased by 18% to 6.5 million tonnes. Thanks to the good harvest in Europe, there has been less need to import agricultural products all year. In the last few months, export also decreased, meaning that the decrease was somewhat greater than usual for a good crop year. More than 3.5 million tonnes less coal (-17% to 18 million tonnes) were handled. During the summer and afterwards, many traders built up substantial stockpiles because prices went down after 1 July. Due to the large stockpiles, there has been little space available for new arrivals. Ships therefore have to call at other ports to unload coal. The amount of coking coal handled is on the up, in line with ore throughput. Throughput of ore and scrap metal plummeted by 56% to just under 15 million tonnes. Where stocks of ore were very high at the beginning of the year, these have been worked away since then. European steel production has got underway again somewhat over the last few months, and is currently at 80% of its capacity before the crisis. 19% less cargo in the category other dry bulk (especially minerals for the production of paper, glass, steel and chemical products) was loaded and unloaded. The slide slowed down considerably in the third quarter thanks to extra throughput of asphalt by Van Benthum. Over 9 months, the volume handled amounted to 7 million tonnes.

Liquid bulk
The import of crude oil decreased by 7% to 72 million tonnes. A lower demand for petroleum products and smaller refinery margins are pushing down production capacity. This is further influenced by large-scale maintenance. The throughput of petroleum products (petrol, diesel, kerosene, fuel oil) grew very strongly, by 21% to 54 million tonnes. Traders continue to keep and build up stockpiles with a view to future price increases. In addition, the fact that less use was made of refining capacity means that more of these products were imported. Other liquid bulk decreased by 19% to 22 million tonnes. There was a slight improvement compared to the second quarter due to a small increase in chemical production. The amounts of biofuels and palm oil imported lagged behind 2008.

General cargo
The amount of container cargo handled, declined with 12% to 73 million tonnes. In numbers: -13% to 7.2 million TEU. Rotterdam is feeling the effects of the overall decrease in container transport. The rationalisation of the Asia services in particular has affected the port much less, and ‘feedering’ is experiencing a healthy growth. Roll-on/roll-off transport forfeited 13% to 12 million. When an improvement will be seen depends on when the British economy recovers. The negative effect of the weak pound, meaning fewer imports, will continue for now. The amount of cargo under the category other general cargo decreased with -23% to 4.4 million tonnes. This is thanks to extra imports of aluminium via Steinweg Handelsveem. In general, the emphasis remains on steel and non-ferrous metals – the lion’s share of ‘other general cargo’ remains in storage. It is expected that growth in throughput will only return after economic recovery.

Source: Port of Rotterdam

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