Less boxes in the western ports
Rotterdam and Antwerp, the two largest European ports, were able to maintain their results for the first half of 2013 at a similar level to 2012’s figures, despite a tense market situation. Whilst Antwerp’s liquid bulk throughput grew substantially, Rotterdam registered strong losses in this field. Container throughput developments diverged in the two hubs.
The Dutch port of Rotterdam recorded a 0.9% decline in volume compared to the first half of 2012, to 219.7 million t. This was primarily caused by a reduction in crude oil quantities – which are particularly important for the hub, accounting for a quarter of overall volume – which fell to 46.2 million t, 8.7% below last year’s figure. LNG also developed very poorly, falling by 70% to 62,000 t.
Container throughput delivered mixed results. Though the number of containers handled increased slightly, by 1% to 5.9 million teu, overall the segment experienced a 2% decrease in the number of tonnes handled, to 61.7 million t. A port spokesperson said that the reason for the decline in terms of weight lay in the persistent economic malaise in Europe. This development was particularly noticeable in the feeder segment. This is partially because shipowners seek to cut costs by making more direct port calls than in the past. Over and above this some feeder connections between the Baltic states and Rotterdam have also shifted to ports in northern Germany. The result was a 6% decrease in volume.
Rotterdam did better in the box segment than Antwerp. The centre on the river Scheldt handled 1.7% less units, namely 4.29 million teu. The number of tonnes handled in the container sector also declined, by 3.7% to 51.51 million t.
The hub’s total throughput presented a different picture. The volume of goods handled by the Belgian maritime port in H1 rose by 2% in comparison with the like-for-like period last year, coming in at 95.66 million t. Liquid bulk throughput improved particularly well, rising by 33% to 29.25 million t.
Both ports are seeking to strengthen their positions by expanding capacities, despite the difficult market environment. Whilst Rotterdam inaugurated the first section of its new Maasvlakte 2 deepsea port in May, Antwerp has plans to expand on the Scheldt’s left bank.