Uniport, the last remaining deepsea container terminal in the Rotterdam city area, is to be closed down, as business falls below a viable level
Parent company Steinweg Handelsveem has informed staff and trade unions that operations will cease by late March 2020. It points to the ongoing loss of business to the Maasvlakte-based terminals.
The planned transfer of three CMA CGM services to Rotterdam World Gateway, at Maasvlakte II, seems to be the final straw. The French carrier has a share in RWG. Transport trade union FNV Havens told WorldCargo News that the loss of CMA’s PAD, NBX and Nefgui services will reduce Uniport’s annual throughput below 200,000 containers - a red line that Steinweg considers critical for viability. Earlier, Maersk’s "overflow" business - to relieve its Maasvlakte terminals - dried up, although Eimskip still is a major customer.
The 54-ha Uniport terminal is understood to have a nominal annual capacity of 400,000 moves (say, 700,000 TEU), and has a total 2,400m of quay wall. It can cater for vessels drawing up to around 12.5m.
Steinweg’s CEO Ulf Boll has promised to redeploy Uniport’s 200-plus staff. Steinweg, as usual, declined to talk to the press, so trade union FNV Havens is the source of information, but there are a number of questions pending.
Steinweg has to resolve the personnel issue itself, as it is not a party to the Rotterdam port-wide social agreement concluded in 2016 to protect dockers losing their job as a result of the arrival of two new container terminals at Maasvlakte II.
Steinweg quit the negotiations for this major deal after the first meeting in 2014, arguing that it would deal with dockers’ surpluses itself. The group has acknowledged the need to start discussing a social plan soon, FNV Havens said.
Steinweg has 20 or so terminals in Rotterdam. The level of trade union membership is below the Rotterdam port average, which might limit the unions’ leverage to enforce a good social deal.
Steinweg’s nearby shortsea specialist Rotterdam Short Sea Terminal (RST), which has the same management as Uniport, is the only big container stevedore left in the city area. Its gantry cranes lack the lift height and outreach for many deepsea ships, which makes Maasvlakte-based ECT an obvious contender to pick up business. Uniport also has some shortsea business, which could be accommodated at RST.
Launched in 1968 as Unitcentre, Uniport was Rotterdam’s second pure deep sea container terminal after ECT (1966). The current name dates from the takeover by Kühne & Nagel. Unitcentre’s then owner ECT was abandoning the Rotterdam city-based terminals in favour of the Maasvlakte. The new name stayed after K&N sold the company to Rotterdam entrepreneur Hans Vervat, who in turn sold Uniport to Steinweg-Handelsveem.