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Published: 12 February 2017      

Rotterdam off 1.1% in 2016

Photo by James Linders
The fall in tonnage of 1.1% to 461.2 Mt comes after a record year in 2015

The fall can largely be attributed to dry bulk - off by 7.8% to 31.2 Mt. Liquid bulks were off by just 0.5% at 223.5 Mt.

Container throughput increased by 1.2% to 12.4M TEU in units and by 0.6% in tonnage to 127.1 Mt. Collectively the two MVII terminals handled 1.7M TEU in 2016.

In H2 2016 container traffic increased by 4.9% year-on-year and in Q4 2016 it increased by 6.5% year-on-year. Overall, container traffic in the Le Havre-Hamburg range increased by an average of just 0.6% in 2016, said the port authority (HbR)'s Chairman, Allard Castelein.

Commenting on the year at HbR's annual results conference on 9th February, Castelein said he expects the strong growth in H2 2016 container traffic to continue, based both on container loops migrating and on Rotterdam increasingly becoming the first call on Asian services, especially for 18,000 + TEU ships.

Acknowledging that the German ports enjoy better rail connections into the hinterland, Castelein mentioned how Rotterdam last year added 21 intermodal shuttle train calls per week to its portfolio. But he also noted last week’s loss of two shuttles, to Italy and Poland (ie ERS).

Reflecting on the year as a whole, Castelein said: “After exceptional 4.9% growth in 2015, we have to be content that most sectors have been able to equal or even slightly exceed these volumes in 2016.

"The Rotterdam port and industrial complex is facing huge challenges, in particular digitisation and energy transition as well as stiff competition from surrounding ports. Divergent trends provide reassurance that the complex can handle these challenges, such as the major investments in various refineries, a number of projects that should shape energy transition and the new container line sailing schedules that are favourable to Rotterdam.”

Paul Smits, HbR CFO, saud: “With turnover remaining virtually the same and increased profit thanks to good cost management, 2016 was, from a financial viewpoint, a healthy and stable year. Investments rose by 16% and they are at least expected to be comparable to 2016 levels over the next few years.

"At the same time the port authority is obliged to pay corporate tax from 2017 onwards. We shall not allow our clients to suffer as a consequence, so we shall be focusing strongly on our costs."

in fact, HbR believes that it has a fair chance of winning the appeal that it has instituted against the European Commission’s sanction ordering it to pay corporation tax. The verdict is due mid-2017. A positive outcome would save Rotterdam around €50M per annum.

HbR's argument is that corporation tax should be compulsory for all European seaports at the same time. Smits says it has the EC on its side and that the EC has "collected a file to press on...Both France and Belgium have been issued with ultimata, and the German ports will follow, too.

"We think that the French government is minded to impose the rule, and that Belgium may give in also. Germany is a bit more complicated, as the ports are taxed, but only in case of profit...their deficits are compensated either by the city state (eg Hamburg) or their federal state (Bundesland). This is state aid.

"We have the impression that in both Belgium and Germany public funds are flowing into the ports enabling them to offer lower prices to commercial parties. All that we seek is a synchronised obligation, so that we don’t have to pay tax a number of years ahead of the other ports."

Ronald Paul, HbR's COO, remarked that there still is around 400-ha (of a total 1,000-ha) of land left to be "sold" on MVII, partially yet to be reclaimed from the main central basin. “New chemical industries that, together with container business, were believed to be the new tenants, have become an unlikely option,” Castelein added. Things look much different than when MVII was conceived.

Castelein said that Rotterdam’s long term cargo volume scenarios have been adjusted downwards due to the effects of "decarbonisation" - less fossil fuels being handled. The worst/best case range of 500 Mt to 900 Mt has now been downscaled to 380 Mt min, 750 Mt max - a huge change.

  • Brexit: Of the total of 461 Mt in 2016, around 40 Mt was UK origin/destination cargo.

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