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Published: 17 January 2009      

European port operators post 2008 results

Several leading ports on the North Continent range and elsewhere have reported their traffic figures for 2008

Top of the pile is Rotterdam, Europe's biggest seaport. Commenting on the 2008 results, the port's CEO Hans Smits said that Rotterdam’s overall competitive position in the north continent range was unchanged, and may even have improved slightly.

Despite a poor last quarter, Rotterdam handled a record 420 Mt in 2008 (+ 2.7% on 2007). Imports in 2008 grew by almost 4% to 312 Mt, while exports fell by 0.5% to 108 Mt. In unit terms the throughput of containers remained unchanged at 10.83M TEU, although container tonnage reached a record high of 107.5 Mt (+ 2.3%).

Smits said that the port anticipates at the most an 8% volume decrease in 2009. “We hope to see a recovery in the fourth quarter of 2009, but are confident that it will come in 2010 at the latest. We anticipate a very sharp drop in the first part of 2009, with both iron ore and coking coal dropping by at least 20%.”

The Port of Antwerp broke through the 100 Mt mark for container traffic last year, with tonnage growing by 7.7% to 102 Mt. In unit terms the traffic rose by 6% to 8.6M TEU. Overall the port handled 190 mt in 2008 (+ 4%), its 7th consecutive year of growth. The figures for the first nine months were excellent, although the last quarter clearly showed the effects of the downturn in the world economy.

Ro-ro volume at 4.4 Mt was almost unchanged from 2007, with car traffic coming to 339,000 units on the inbound side and 612,000 outbound.

Conventional/breakbulk freight was down by 15% to around 17 Mt, after an exceptional year in 2007 when there was a very high volume of steel from Asia. In 2008, however, the amount of steel was down by 14.1% to 10.5 Mt.

The volume of forest products is also down, falling by 18% to 2.7 Mt, mainly as a result of trade being lost to other ports. The fruit volume on the other hand was up slightly, rising 1% to 1.3 Mt, further consolidating Antwerp’s position as the largest fruit port in Europe.

Antwerp Port Authority expects that the general trend over the past three months will continue during the first half of 2009. It notes that 2Q/2008 will be difficult to equal in any case, since in that period extra freight was diverted to Antwerp as a result of a dock strike in Le Havre.

The Port of Amsterdam has labelled its 2008 results "excellent." Cargo throughput in the Amsterdam pPort area (the ports of Velsen/IJmuiden, Beverwijk, Zaanstad as well as Amsterdam proper) rose by 4% in 2008 to 90.9 Mt, with volume at Amsterdam “proper” up by 7% to 72.4 Mt.

The port’s CEO Hans Gerson said: “The very strong performance achieved in the first 10 months could not be maintained in the last two months.” However, he added that Amsterdam fared better than most other ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range. Growth in sea transport going through the sea lock in IJmuiden has exceeded the most recent predictions from the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, Gerson continued.

“Even if we factor in the expected reduced growth in 2009, this makes clear that the decision about the construction of a second sea lock needs to be taken as a matter of great urgency.” Furthermore, not only has the number of cargo ship calls been increasing - up by 9.5% to 5813 in 2008 - the vessels are becoming bigger and wider.

Container traffic increased last year by 10.2% to 424,880 TEU, with tonnage up 11% by to 3.8 Mt. Coal traffic dropped by 4.2% to 16.5 Mt, with the decrease stemming in part from the large supplies held by the coal terminals at the start of the year.

Growth in 2009 is expected to be clearly smaller, but the port says it is not yet clear to what extent and for how long the recession will affect its various sectors. However, it expects to “weather the economic storm fairly well.”

Moving west, the Port of Dunkirk logged its 7th straight annual record, with overall traffic for 2008 up 1% to 57.7 Mt, although volume turned down in December.

Liquid bulks were up 6% to 14.8 Mt, while coal was up 2% to 9.7 Mt and ore traffic was off by 6% to 13 Mt. General cargo (+ 3%) broke through the 16 Mt barrier for the first time, with ro-ro traffic up 4% to 12.7 Mt and lo-lo container traffic growing by 9% to 215,000 TEU.

The Port of Le Havre provisionally handled 80.5t in 2008 (+1.4%), with liquid bulks up by 6.7% to 49.2 Mt, of which crude oil accounted for 34.8 Mt (+5.8%). Dry bulks were off by 2.5% to 4.7 Mt, as a sharp increase (10.8%) in coal traffic to 2.7 Mt was offset by a 16% fall (to 2 Mt) in agri-bulks, cement, etc.

Container traffic fell by 7% to 24.5 Mt (around 2.5M TEU), due to industrial action, particularly in 2Q/2008, associated with the national ports reform agenda. Traffic was diverted to Dunkirk (where there was no disruption) and Antwerp. Ro-ro traffic increased by 12% to 1.8 Mt.

Finally, the small Swedish Port of Södertälje says it continued to grow last year “even if the growth rate decreased during the autumn.” Container volumes over the quay were up by 17% and at the truck/rail intermodal yard (trains to/from the Port of Gothenburg) by 4%, providing for a 12% increase overall compared by 2007. The port’s managing director Erik Froste expects further growth in 2009.

At the turn of the year agreements were signed with two new shipping lines, China Shipping Container Line and COSCO.



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  • Europe) Belgium) Antwerp
  • Europe) Belgium) Belgium Port developments
  • Europe) France) Dunkirk
  • Europe) France) France Port developments
  • Europe) France) Le Havre
  • Europe) Netherlands) Amsterdam
  • Europe) Netherlands) Netherlands Port developments
  • Europe) Netherlands) Port of Rotterdam
  • Europe) Sweden) Sodertälje
  • Amsterdam Port Authority
  • Antwerp Port Authority
  • Port of Amsterdam
  • Port of Antwerp
  • Port of Le Havre
  • Port of Rotterdam
  • Port of Södertälje
  • Rotterdam Port Authority


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