Release Date:
Release ID: 1203

Port of Rotterdam operating at full capacity

In 2006, 377 million tonnes of goods were handled in the port of Rotterdam, 1.7% up on 2005 and a new record. Outgoing trade showed more marked growth than incoming, at 4 and 1% respectively. General cargo increased by 2.5%, whilst bulk remained static. Imports and exports of ores and scrap (-6%), agribulk (-14%) and crude oil (-3%) were down. Throughput of coal (+3%), other dry bulk (+8%), other liquid bulk (+14%), mineral oil products (+8%), containers (+3%) roll on /roll off (+1%) and other general cargo (+8%) showed healthy growth. There was a 4% increase in the actual number of containers handled, to 9.6 million TEU (20-foot units). New records were established in five sectors: mineral oil products, coal, containers, other dry bulk and other liquid bulk.

Press Release

Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO: "Virtually the whole of the port is continuing to operate at full capacity. With the current terminal capabilities, it’s possible to approach the maximum growth scenario. Only when the major expansions, such as the EMO coal terminal and the Euromax container terminal, have been completed will it be possible to accelerate the growth.This is sorely needed. It doesn’t matter how big the site is, there are always a number of candidates and from a number of different sectors. Virtually every global player wants a strategic position with deep water and plenty of rail capacity. Rotterdam is therefore in great demand and the Betuweroute plays an important role here. Take, for example, the contract we signed this year with AP Møller for a terminal on Maasvlakte 2 and the more intensive collaboration between ECT and the CKYH alliance in Euromax. In 2007, container throughput will be limited again physically, however, so that growth of around 6% is realistic. Expectations for total throughput are very good again, with an increase of 2.5% to about 386 million tonnes".

Dry bulk

The total quantity of dry bulk fell by 2% to 87 million tonnes. A record quantity of coal, +3% to over 27 million tonnes, was handled. The originally low demand from power plants and the effects of the low water levels were compensated for in the course of the year. The demand for coal is increasing structurally. In the first place from Germany, but also in the port area where E.on and Electrabel plan to establish power plants. In addition to this, demand is becoming more unpredictable due to the increasing share of the ‘spot market' at the expense of long-term contracts. This calls for more buffer space in the ports. The expansion of the EMO and the new train loader are a response to this.

There was a 6% fall in ore and scrap throughput, to 38 million tonnes. Although 2006 was a good year for the steel sector, imports of ore via Rotterdam were down. At the beginning of the year, the rundown of stocks built up at the end of 2005 played a role. In addition, Arcelor is reducing production capacity, to start with in Liège, and a blast furnace in Duisburg was faced with an unplanned shutdown.

Other dry bulk continues to show an upward trend with an increase of 8% this year, to a record 13 million tonnes. There is continuing high demand from the construction, chemical and metal industries for sand, gravel, ores, minerals and concentrates. After five consecutive years of growth, Rotterdam seems to be approaching its ceiling when it comes to handling these products, however. It looks as if there will be a slight increase next year, but clients have already been denied transshipment capacity.

Throughput of agribulk (grains, seeds, animal feed) was hit quite hard, down 14% to 9.2 million tonnes. In addition to a strike and changing regulations, which made the import of palm products less attractive, a lot of European rapeseed was used for the production of bio fuels instead of raw materials from overseas. If you add to this the uncertainty surrounding the import of (possibly) genetically contaminated rice and maize products, you will realise that the sector would prefer to forget this year. A ray of hope is the completion of an unloading pit for trains at EBS, which will reinforce Rotterdam’s export position.

Liquid bulk

Total volume was up by close on 3% to 176 million tonnes. Incoming trade in crude oil was down slightly, 3% to 99 million tonnes, in comparison with a very good previous year. During the year, incoming trade was only a fraction lower. In the final quarter, demand for refinery products was down and refinery margins fell, putting a squeeze on oil imports. Rotterdam’s incoming trade is around a pivotal level of 100 million tonnes. The anticipated modernization of the Kuwait Petroleum Europoort refinery could raise this to a slightly higher structural level.

Incoming trade in oil products was 7% up to 29 million tonnes and outgoing trade by 11% to 17 million tonnes. In total, a record quantity of 46 million tonnes (+8%) was handled. The regional differences in demand and supply, both quantitative and qualitative, are already producing a lot of movement in themselves. Environmentally-driven government measures and the active trade sector are reinforcing these.

Throughput of other liquid bulk, mostly basic chemicals, was 14% up and easily set a new record at 31 million tonnes (exports +5%, imports +18%). This, the biggest increase in years, is in both bulk chemicals and vegetable oils. Generally speaking, throughput of chemical products is in line with the upward movement in trade. Two major flows, methanol and MTBE, were given an extra boost by the demand for bio fuels. This is also the reason behind the increase in the handling of vegetable oils from rapeseed, palm nuts and soya beans.

General cargo

It was another good year for the general cargo sector, with an increase of 4 million tonnes (+4%) to 113 million tonnes. Containers accounted for the lion’s share, with 3 million tonnes (imports +4%, exports +3%). Expressed in numbers, this is the equivalent of +4% to 9.6 million TEU (+350,000).

Following the relapse in the spring, things were back to normal, and a record was even set, by about September. The driving forces behind this were and are the Far East and Russia. The takeover of P&O Nedlloyd by Maersk and the increase in the number of mega-ships led to a radical reorganisation of the global network of liner traffic. Rotterdam got 16 new services and lost 5. Demand, which is expected to produce a 6% increase in container throughput in 2007, exceeds current capacity.

Roll-on / roll-off recovered from last year’s dramatic fall (-10%) and ends the year slightly up, by 1% to 10 million tonnes.

Considering the moderate growth in the whole HLH Range, most of the Rotterdam terminals therefore managed to win back some share in this razor-sharp market. These gains were due mainly to the increase in container handling as opposed to trailers. In 2007, clear growth in ro-ro is expected due to the arrival of Norfolkline.

Other general cargo, at 8%, to over 9 million tonnes, is above average for the HLH Range. Gevelco attracted new steel cargoes from Rautaruukki (Finland) and Ilva (Italy), Seabrex won banana contracts and RCT/RCC handled new shipments of Mazdas. The positive development of other general cargo is also boosting the demand for space. Interforest, Broekman and Cobelfret were granted an additional 14 hectares in 2006. In 2007, reallocations are planned in the Waalhaven and the restructuring of transshipment in ‘lash barges’.
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