Container growth healthy at Rotterdam and Antwerp

Container traffic growth is quite strong at both Rotterdam and Antwerp and is likely to drive expansion at the two European ports for much of the coming year, judging by the performance through the last 12 months.

The results from Rotterdam port, published yesterday (20/01/2015), saw overall volumes measured in tonnes up by just 1%, however this disguised a 5.8% rise in container through-put, to 12.3m Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) for the year. What dragged-down the numbers was a fall in certain bulk cargoes, notably crude-oil but also iron ore and coal. LNG however saw a 59.5% jump in volume handled. Rotterdam ascribed the growth in containers to growing demand in the UK and the Eurozone, paralleled by 8.1% growth in ro-ro from higher vehicle sales in Britain.

Antwerp also saw higher container volumes, up 4.8% over 2014 to 8.96m TEUs. The ports ro-ro business fell by 1.2% but this appears to have been caused by lower demand for second hand vehicles in Africa rather than import and export of new cars out of Europe.

Amtwerp’s chemical industry continues to strengthen its relative position in Europe. Where petro-chemical volumes in Rotterdam fell by 7.4%, Antwerp continued to see booming trade with a 5.4% in bulk cargoes expansion following-on from 2013 growth of 31.4%. Rotterdam admitted that it is suffering from competition from other tank-terminals in the region.

Both Rotterdam and Antwerp are stiff competitors in containers and it will be interesting to see the effect that the introduction of the Maasvlatke 2 terminals will have on Rotterdam’s competitiveness as it begins operation through 2015. However the underlying health of container volumes in both ports depends in the medium term on the health of the big Northern European economies, making the future far less certain.