On Wednesday 22 December, the 15 millionth TEU container of the year arrived in the Port of Rotterdam. It is the first time that a European port has broken through this magical barrier.

The transhipment of containers went through a dip due to the Covid-19 outbreak but, from autumn 2020 onwards, Rotterdam has seen a rapid recovery. When it comes to TEU volume, the first nine months of 2021 saw a 7.8 per cent growth. Consumer spending is booming and the economy is recovering with volumes higher than they were in 2019. This strong demand, together with the various disruptions (for example Suez and outbreaks of coronavirus in Chinese ports) that we have faced this year, means pressure on the logistics chain remains high

In terms of TEU volume, transhipment grew faster than in terms of tonnage. There were a couple of reasons for this. For a small part, it was due to the increase in the transhipment of empty containers. However, the greatest effect could be put down to a sharp decline in the average weight of full containers. Transport prices have risen sharply over the past few quarters. Consequently, the transport of relatively heavy, low-value freight has decreased. This effect was most noticeable with export containers, but it could also be seen on the import side.

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‘In 2022, we expect the extreme congestion at the Rotterdam container terminals to continue for the time being. This is because the international container ship fleet and terminal capacity are not growing at a rate commensurate with demand,’ says Emile Hoogsteden, Commercial Director at the Port of Rotterdam Authority. ‘The Port Authority will continue to emphasise and encourage the importance of digitisation, cooperation and data sharing to provide a better response to the global pressure on the logistics chain – now and in the future.’

Port of Rotterdam number of TEU between 1968 and 2021.

Picture: On 22 December, the first container ships to arrive in the Port of Rotterdam in daylight were treated to a spouting serenade by a Port Authority patrol boat for the arrival of the 15 millionth TEU container (photo Jerry Lampen).

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