The port of Rotterdam handled roughly the same volume of cargo in the first quarter of 2016 as in the same period last year.
An increase in the volume of, mainly, crude oil and oil products put through the port was offset by a more or less equivalent decrease in the volume of dry bulk and containers. The total volume of cargo handled in the port increased by 0.2%, to 116.9 million tonnes.
Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO Allard Castelein said: “The port’s throughput grew by 4.9% in 2015. Our ambition is to match this high throughput volume in the present year. So far we are on course – but we still have three quarters to go.”
In the liquid bulk market segment, the port handled higher volumes of crude oil (+2.0%; 26.0 million tonnes), mineral oil products (+7.0%; 24.4 million tonnes) and other liquid bulk (+2.1%; 7.8 million tonnes). The low oil prices have resulted in substantial margins for the refineries, increased refining activity and strong trade in oil products. In the other liquid bulk segment, Rotterdam saw a slight decrease in the volume of MTBE (a petrol additive) put through the port, and a modest increase in biodiesel volumes. The only segment that saw considerable decline in its throughput volumes was LNG (-72.6%; 0.1 million tonnes). A substantially lower volume of LNG was re-exported to non-EU destinations in the first quarter. LNG throughput volumes are expected to recover over the remainder of 2016. All in all, the throughput of liquid bulk rose by 3.3% to 58.4 million tonnes.
The key cargo types within the dry bulk category are iron ore & scrap metal and coal. There was a sizeable decrease in the throughput of iron ore & scrap metal (-6.1%; 7.8 million tonnes). The main cause of this decline was the large quantity of Chinese steel dumped on the European market. The volume of coal put through Rotterdam increased slightly (+2.9%; 7.9 million tonnes). The key contributor to this growth was ThyssenKrupp’s decision to concentrate its supply of cokes via Rotterdam. The decommissioning of the Nijmegen and Geertruidenberg (Amer 8) coal-fired power stations and the extremely mild winter led to a slight reduction in plant coal imports. A decrease in the import of raw materials for the metal industry and the construction sector, combined with a decrease in the export of fly ash, resulted in lower throughput volumes for other dry bulk (-18.6%; 2.7 million tonnes). There was a slight increase in the volume of agri-bulk handled in the port (+1.2%; 2.5 million tonnes). All in all, the throughput of dry bulk decreased by 4% to 21.0 million tonnes.
The volume of containers handled via the port decreased by 3.1%, to 31.0 million tonnes, and by 3.9% to 3.0 million TEU (standard container capacity unit). The lack of growth in this sector can mainly be attributed to unfavourable economic developments in China, Russia and Brazil. In addition, fewer empty containers were shipped to foreign destinations – particularly to Asia (-14.5%) – partly as a result of the slowdown in Chinese exports. At the same time, Rotterdam saw an increase in its trade with the US, the UK, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. And roll-on/roll-off transports to the UK are still on the rise (+1.8%; 5.4 million tonnes). The volume of other breakbulk handled in the port also grew (+6.7%; 1.2 million tonnes), resulting in an increase of 2.7% in throughput in the breakbulk market segment (ro/ro and other breakbulk), to a total of 6.6 million tonnes.