Total throughput at the port of Rotterdam fell by 1.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period last year. However, container throughput was on the rise, with a 3.3 per cent uptick.

In the first three months of this year, throughput was 110.1 million tonnes compared to 111.7 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2023. The decline is mainly due to less throughput of coal, crude oil and oil products. Throughput of iron ore and scrap and LNG increased.

Boudewijn Siemons, CEO & Interim COO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority: ‘The throughput figures show limited imports of raw materials and exports of finished products. This tells us that European industrial production is still suffering from high energy prices and low demand from the biggest declining sectors such as construction and the processing and automotive industries. From the growth in container throughput, we see the first signs that world trade is picking up. However, these tentative signs remain highly uncertain due to rising global tensions.’

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Dry bulk

Dry bulk throughput declined by 4.5 per cent compared to the first three months of 2023. The main reason for the decline is the sharp contraction in coal throughput. Two million tonnes less coal was handled than last year due to lower demand for thermal coal for power generation in coal-fired power plants. As German steel production picked up, iron ore imports also increased. The strong 93.7 per cent increase in the other dry bulk segment is distorted by the fact that there was a correction in throughput in the first quarter of 2023.

The same goes for the 23.9 per cent decline in the agribulk segment. Without the correction, throughput in the agribulk segment shows a decline of 10.9 per cent. Other dry bulk shows a decline of 16.8 per cent. The other dry bulk segment includes raw materials used in energy-intensive sectors. Production in these sectors is still low, as energy costs account for a large part of production costs.

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Liquid bulk

Liquid bulk throughput declined by 3.1 per cent to 52.6 million tonnes. The decline of 1.6 million tonnes was caused by less throughput of crude oil, mineral oil products and other liquid bulk. Refinery margins in north-western Europe are healthy, leading to effective refinery utilisation and almost the same crude oil supply as in 2023. However, demand for oil products this quarter was lower than in the first quarter of 2023, when there were many imports to replace Russian oil products.

Throughput of LNG, as a source of natural gas, again increased by 3.6 per cent to 9.1 million tonnes. The other liquid bulk segment saw a decline across the board from chemical and renewable to plant and animal products. The processing industry in Europe is still struggling due to high energy prices and lack of demand.

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Containers and breakbulk

The container segment is showing a slight increase in throughput for the first time in three years. Throughput in tonnes showed an increase of 3.3 per cent (from 31.5 million tonnes to 32.5 million tonnes) and in TEUs, throughput increased by 2.0 per cent to 3.3 million TEUs.

The situation in the Red Sea resulted in significantly fewer ships (-24.5 per cent) and less volume from Asia (-13.7 per cent) in January and February due to delays and missed sailings. Fitting in the changed sailing schedules initially led to the necessary adjustments in the logistics chain.

Overall demand for freight is virtually unaffected. That situation is now under control. In March, there were significantly more ships arriving (11.5 per cent) and volumes from Asia recovered. Volumes in the other shipping areas also showed a positive result. Cautious economic recovery and destocking are contributing to this. Feeder traffic from Rotterdam to Mediterranean seaports also shows a strong increase (29.0 per cent). As ships divert via the Cape of Good Hope and ports are bypassed, cargo destined for this region is shipped from Rotterdam to Mediterranean ports via feeder ships.

Total throughput of the breakbulk market segment (roll-on/roll-off and other breakbulk) decreased by 1.9 per cent to 7.8 million tonnes. RoRo throughput fell by 3.8 per cent to 6.3 million tonnes compared to the first quarter last year, as volumes to the UK still show no recovery. Other breakbulk rose 7.4 per cent to 1.5 million tonnes.

Picture: Euromax terminal at Maasvlakte 2 seen from the sky (by Martens Multimedia).

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