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Port of Rotterdam throughput remained steady in 2022 despite war

Posted on February 27, 2023

According to the Port of Rotterdam, the war in Ukraine led to unprecedented changes in goods flows last year. At 467.4 million tonnes, total throughput in Rotterdam was almost the same (-0.3%) as in 2021 (468.7 million tonnes) but the underlying figures show that there were major changes.

Container throughput fell by 5.5% in TEU (-9.6% in tonnes), mainly because container traffic to and from Russia came to a virtual standstill after the invasion of Ukraine. Imports of LNG, mainly from the USA, increased by 63.9% as an alternative to Russian gas. At the same time, coal imports rose by 17.9% as mainly German coal-fired power plants were used more. In line with the sanctions, companies reduced imports of Russian oil, oil products and coal, and succeeded in importing them from elsewhere.

  1. Cargo throughput virtually unchanged in 2022 (-0.3%)
  2. Large underlying differences: much more LNG, fewer containers
  3. Sound financial result for Port of Rotterdam Authority
  4. Major investments in hydrogen and biofuels
  5. Lack of progress on problems with nitrogen emissions delays energy transition

Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority: “2022 was an extraordinary year in many ways. The war and the sanctions led to changes in energy flows around the world and high energy prices, and therefore high inflation and the weakening of the economy. The Rotterdam business sector and all service providers were able to respond quickly and effectively. The war has also demonstrated the risks for crucial sectors of strong dependence on one country or a limited number of countries.”

About the finances the Port Authority has had a good 2022 in financial terms. Revenue rose by 6.9% to € 825.7 million. Operating expenses also increased: by 8.3% to € 282.2 million. The operating result before interest, depreciation and taxes (EBITDA) was also higher on balance: by 6.1% to € 543.5 million.

As explained, container throughput fell by 5.5% in TEU and by 9.6% in tonnes. The difference between the two was due to a sharp increase in arrivals of full containers from Asia in the first nine months of the year because of high demand for consumer goods. At the same time, exports declined and so many more empty containers were shipped back.

The container sector was still affected by disruptions in the logistics chain in 2022 due to strong demand for transport in combination with difficulties associated primarily with lockdowns (COVID-19) and capacity issues. That resulted in overcrowded terminals and distribution centres in the port and hinterland, and uncertainty about delivery times.

With regards to safety, the Port of Rotterdam Authority noted a slight fall in the number of accidents in 2022: 137 accidents compared to 141 in 2021. There were two serious incidents on the water: one with the water taxi and a fatal accident when an inland vessel capsized. To make conduct on the water safer in leisure and passenger shipping, monitoring has been intensified.

The Port Authority’s Harbour Master Division has now launched a trial involving the extension of traffic control to include camera supervision. The camera network used by the Seaport Police, the Customs authorities and the Port Authority in the port and industrial area will increase from 220 to 280 cameras in the near future. This will be useful in a range of areas, including the combating of subversion and drugs-related crime. The prevention of cybercrime also continues to be a strong focus.

A major concern is that, nearly four years after the Council of State put an end to the Dutch Nitrogen Reduction Programme (PAS), it is still unclear how the Netherlands will find a way out of the resulting impasse. Industry in Rotterdam is consistently applying the best available technology (BAT), and total nitrogen emissions have therefore fallen by 60% in the past fifteen years. That is one reason industry in Rotterdam accounts for only 1% of nitrogen deposition in Dutch nature areas.


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