Container throughput dipped by 7% at the Port of Rotterdam in the first half of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic led shipping lines to blank a significant number of sailings.
Although carriers cancelled up to 20% of all services in May and June, the decline in volumes was nevertheless less pronounced due to the increased call sizes of vessels visiting Rotterdam.
The port handled 7,002,000 teu, a reduction of more than 500,000 teu, with the fall mainly due to the throughput of fewer empty containers. Container tonnage was only down by 3.3% in terms of tonnage.
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.
Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, said: “The Dutch economy and the Port of Rotterdam are dependent on developments in world trade. The negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt worldwide.
“It should therefore come as no surprise that 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.”
Overall volumes across all cargo segments decreased by 9.1% to 218.9m tonnes, with dry bulk down 19% and liquid bulk slipping 9%. The latter accounts for 46% of Rotterdam’s throughput.
Break bulk fell by 11% in the first half year and roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) throughput was 12% lower, with most of the drop at the beginning of the second quarter, when the lockdown was in place in most of Western Europe.
In the first half of the year, revenue increased by 0.7% to €360m (US$420m), due to an increase in contract income, in part from new rental contracts and in part from the price indexation of existing contracts.
The port authority has deliberately chosen to continue investing in the Port Industrial Complex during the COVID-19 period and is reviewing investment projects that can increase the Netherlands’ sustainability and accelerate the economy’s recovery, partly at the request of central government.
The most important investments for the first half of 2020 were the construction of the Theemsweg Route, the construction of the Container Exchange Route and the extension of Maasvlakte Plaza.
The level of investment for the whole of 2020 is expected to be in line with last year at around €340m (US$395m).