especially now that investment is planned by the port authority in new flat warehousing facilities.
Over the last 20 years, de Ridder adds, agribulk has become one of the port’s main dry bulk sectors. In the 1990s, volumes grew from 5mt to 10mt, declining just slightly to 8.5mt in 2013. Much of the strength in this area is down to the presence of two major stevedores — IGMA and OBA — which are the most important regional players in this market, something which has allowed them to increase their market share.
Since agribulk tends to be a relatively light material, no lightering is required outside the locks, with Handy and Panamax size vessels passing directly to the facilities in the main port.
Amsterdam also benefits from a local processing sector for inbound agricultural products, with 3mt of mainly soya and oil seeds imported.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
Amsterdam retains a strong position as something of a regional hub for building materials for companies in north-west Europe. These are mostly sea-dredged aggregates, sourced from both Scotland and Scandinavia.
However, this year, the port has seen something of a slow down, although expectations are for a recovery.
“The construction sector in north-west Europe has been a bit sluggish in recent times, although we are beginning to see signs of recovery and forecast more grow in the near future,” says de Ridder.
Such commodities, he suggests, are also relatively captive to the port, since Amsterdam has been able to leverage its strategic location to rotate consignments out by barge to various localities across the Netherlands and also into Germany.
Given a draught of 17.8 metres, Amsterdam can also accommodate bulk carriers of up to 170,000dwt, which are typically deployed on aggregates traffic. In this sector, producers tend to operate their own, very large bulk carriers on what are, essentially, pendulum services, connecting the same origin and destination port.
Indeed, next year, Amsterdam is to start receiving consignments of granite from both Scotland and Scandinavia in such bulk carriers, which will definitely require lightering at IJmuiden.
In terms of landside movements at Amsterdam, 20% goes by rail, around 70% by inland waterway to Germany or by coastal vessels to the UK, with the remaining 10% processed in the port.
“Dry bulk isn’t really suitable for road shipment anyway,” says de Ridder, noting that this particularly healthy situation has evolved naturally, taking advantage of the port’s unique position and infrastructure to ensure trucks are kept off the road.
Terminal operators, too, recognize the importance of intermodal options, with OBA, in addition to recently revamping its conveyor system, also improving equipment at its rail head to expedite deliveries.