Despite the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, production and logistics, the port of Rotterdam has remained 100% operational since the begining. But, the total throughput for the six months was down 9.1% at 218.9 million tonnes as compared to last year.
Container throughput was only 3.3% down on 2019 (in tonnes, 7% in TEU). That is 2.5 million tonnes less cargo. Shipping companies cancelled up to 20% of all their services in May and June. The decline in throughput was nevertheless less pronounced due to the increased call sizes of vessels calling at Rotterdam. The number of empty containers was considerably lower than in the same period last year because imports of containers from Asia have fallen while exports have actually risen.
Break bulk fell by 11% in the first half year. RoRo throughput was 12% lower. Most of the drop was at the beginning of the second quarter, when the lockdown was in place in most of Western Europe. Volumes increased again towards the end of the quarter.
Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority said, “Throughput volumes in the past six months were considerably lower than in the same period last year. On the positive side, the throughput volumes in the second quarter turned out to be better than initially expected. Nevertheless, it is not in Rotterdam’s nature to sit back and watch. That is why the Port Authority has conducted a review to determine which public-private investment projects can be accelerated. In that way, the government and the port of Rotterdam can team up to further the sustainability of the economy, while giving it a kick-start at the same time.”
The throughput of dry bulk at the port amounted to 30.8 million tonnes, 19% less than in the first half of 2019. Dry bulk accounts for 14% of throughput in the port of Rotterdam. Falling volumes were seen primarily in the throughput of iron ore and scrap (-22%) and coal (-34%).
Liquid bulk throughput amounted to 99.8 million tonnes. That is approximately 10 million tonnes less than in the first half of 2019, a fall of more than 9%. Liquid bulk accounts for 46% of throughput in Rotterdam.
Throughput of mineral oil products fell sharply (-22%). In the case of crude oil, the fall was only slight (-4%) and LNG throughput actually increased slightly (+2.6%). Throughput of other liquid bulk in the first half of the year matched the level of last year.
Offering a cautious outlook for the second half of 2020, the port authority said that there is considerable uncertainty about how long the recession will last and when recovery will begin. Another factor is whether the EU and the UK will manage to conclude a post-Brexit trade agreement in the coming months.
The port authority, however, said volumes in the port will not decline further but there will probably be no full recovery. The port expects the total throughput volume for the year to be significantly lower than in 2019.