In the first nine months of 2023, there was six per cent less throughput in the port of Rotterdam: 329.9 million tonnes compared to 351.0 million tonnes in the same period in 2022. The decline was mainly related to the throughput of containers and coal. Throughput of iron ore and scrap, agricultural bulk and LNG increased.

The drop in the total throughput volume is the direct consequence of limited growth in the global economy and geopolitical tensions, which are driving falling world trade volumes and lower industrial production.

‘As we expected, the throughput in the first nine months was lower than last year, but is in line with our prognoses,’ says Boudewijn Siemons, interim CEO and COO of Port of Rotterdam Authority. ‘The economy has not yet recovered and this continues to impact throughput figures.’

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Dry bulk

The dry bulk segment declined by a total of 11.9 per cent in the first nine months of the year. Although steel production dropped, the throughput of iron ore and scrap increased (6.8 per cent). In recent months, blast furnaces were operating steadily and stocks of ore have been replenished.

Coal throughput fell significantly (-16.8 per cent), mainly because less coal was fired in power plants. The plants had stiff competition from solar, wind and gas. Therefore, several coal-fired power plants were left idle in recent months.

The growth of agribulk (40.7 per cent) and drop in other dry bulk (-53.6 per cent) is distorted due to administrative corrections. Without this skewed result, the increase in the agribulk segment was 4.6 per cent. This is mainly because more soy was imported from South America.

After correction, the throughput of other dry bulk fell by -23.9 per cent due to lower demand for raw materials for construction and industrial production. In addition, this type of cargo was more frequently transported in containers due to the lower container rates.

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Liquid bulk

The liquid bulk segment experienced a drop of 2.4 per cent. The throughput of LNG rose slightly by 0.4 per cent, as more LNG was imported to replace Russian pipeline gas. The other segments show a slight decline in throughput. Specifically, the throughput of crude oil fell by 1.9 per cent as a result of increased maintenance work to the refineries, which reduced the supply of crude oil.

Mineral oil products dropped by 3.1 per cent because less fuel oil is transported via Rotterdam following the sanctions on Russian oil products. Similarly, the categories within the segment other liquid bulk (including chemical products, biofuels, vegetable/animal oils and fruit juices) fell by 3.5 per cent. Higher energy costs and lower capacity utilisation rates at plants in Europe meant that existing stocks were pared down.

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Containers and breakbulk

Global demand for freight is still lower than in 2022 as a result of inflation, limited economic growth, geopolitical tensions and higher spending on services rather than products. This has a knock-on effect on the throughput of containers in Rotterdam.

The container segment saw a decline of 8.1 per cent in weight and 7.2 per cent in the number of containers (TEU, twenty feet equivalent unit) in the first nine months. The transhipment volumes increased by 8.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2023.

In addition, roll-on/roll-off traffic (-3.8 per cent) and other general cargo (-13.7 per cent) fell as a result of reduced consumer spending, large stocks and lower investments. The total throughput in the breakbulk segment therefore fell by 6.0 per cent.

Picture by Martens Multimedia (as provided by the Port of Rotterdam Authority).

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