Throughput in Rotterdam falls 9.3%, further decline expected

Cargo throughput in the port of Rotterdam fell by 9.3% to 112.4 million tonnes in the first quarter. The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in significantly lower demand and a large number of cancelled sailings. The port authority warns that the annual throughput volume could fall by as much as 20%.

Coal, crude oil and oil products took the biggest hits. Total dry bulk handling was down by 14% with coal taking a huge hit of nearly 40%. Iron ore volumes increased by 15.7% as steel companies are stocking up, while other dry bulk cargoes also fell sharply (-21%) due to postponed construction projects.

The incoming flow of crude oil declined by 8% as most and most refiners used stocks built up last year for production in the first quarter. The throughput of oil products fell by a staggering 32.8% due to a sharp fall in the trading of fuel oil between Russia and Singapore, for which Rotterdam has been the throughput location in recent years. Much of the fuel oil went directly from Russia to the United States for refining.

Breakbulk

Conventional breakbulk was also down but not as severe as in Antwerp where breakbulk throughput fell by 27.8%. Volume declined by 3.2% as a result of the economic downturn.

RoRo throughput was 7.3% down in the first quarter of last year. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, fewer people and goods were transported between the United Kingdom and Rotterdam in March.

Despite a large number of blanked sailings, the container throughput in Rotterdam remained fairly stable in the first quarter. Measured in TEU, the volume fell by 4.7% but measured in tonnes the decline was just 0,3%. According to the port authority, the impact of the corona crisis was only apparent in late March. The actual impact will likely be visible in the second quarter.

Outlook

“We are facing unprecedented disruptions and the port of Rotterdam intends to continue contributing to society. The impact of a decline in demand due to the corona crisis will become clear from April onwards. A 10 to 20% drop in throughput volume on an annual basis would seem to be very likely. This will depend on how long the measures remain in place and on how quickly production and world trade recover”, said Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

Author: Tobias Pieffers

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