Declines in two ports...
...mean Hamburg is even more pleased about its growth. Container throughput sank in Rotterdam and Antwerp in 2013. Is there any optimism for 2014?
The two ports of Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium) did not register any great success last year in terms of container throughput. Volumes in Antwerp, currently Europe’s third-largest container port when measured in throughput, sank by 0.7% to 8.57 million teu. Despite this small setback the port is looking to the future optimistically, as a recent announcement by the P3 Network stated that the alliance will call more frequently at the Belgian hub in future. Antwerp is thus confident that it will once again increase its market share. The provisional figures for 2013 predict that total throughput in the maritime centre came to 184.1 million t last year, or 3.5% more than the figure for 2012.
Rotterdam also lost ground
The situation is similar in Rotterdam. Total throughput in 2013 came to 442 million t, on a par with the previous year’s figure. Europe’s uncontested no 1 in the container segment lost 1.7% in this field, however, handling 11.66 million teu last year. Hans Smits, the Port of Rotterdam Authority’s CEO who left his charge at the top of the organisation at the end of the year, told the media that the continuing economic doldrums represented the main reason for the lack of growth. This was exacerbated by industrial unrest, which caused some vessels to choose other ports of call. Over and above this the port of Hamburg siphoned off cargo from Rotterdam, and some large ships from Asia increasingly sail directly to the Baltic Sea, instead of calling at Rotterdam first for transhipment to feeder services. The hub’s feeder volume thus also declined by 11.5%, whilst its deep-sea quantities slipped by 3.4%. Shortsea traffic grew by 13.2%.
Hamburg makes gains
The port of Hamburg did not present any official figures in time for the ITJ’s editorial deadline. Analysts assume that it will emerge as the winner amongst the three largest European container ports, however. Hamburg’s economics senator Frank Horch said in December that the city’s port expects to have handled a total of 9.3 million teu in total in 2013. This would represent an increase of 4.5% vis-à-vis the previous year’s result.
But not all is rosy in Hamburg. In its latest Dynaliners report the Dutch analyst Dynamar corrected its throughput prediction for 2025 (made in 2010) from 25 to 15 million teu. There seems to be room for cautious optimism, however. A container throughput index, published by RWI, a German economic research institute, and the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL), improved by 0.4 points to 117.4 in November 2013. This means that the index, based on information from 73 ports, has risen for five successive months. This is one of many signals that seem to point to the end of stagnation for the international exchange of goods. Analysts have sounded a note of caution, however, as the positive trend does not look to be very strong.