Although not on the same scale as Spanish ports, those in Portugal posted some interesting increases in traffic last year. Indeed, when looking at total traffic across all traffic sectors, 2017 was a record year, with 95.9mt (million tonnes) handled, an increase of 2.2%.

Of all ports, Lisbon showed the best growth. In 2017, it handled around 5.4mt of dry bulk, up 17% over the previous year’s figure of 4.6mt. Much of this additional traffic was generated by the movement of clinker, mostly to countries in the North of Africa.

The port authority (APL) is hoping for a slight increase in dry bulk traffic in 2018. This will confirm trends established in 2017, when cement traffic did well and also the agribulk food market, which is expected to see additional activity in 2018 accentuated by the impact of drought on national cereal production.

According to the APL, the current capacity of solid bulk terminals in the Port of Lisbon is far from being exhausted, and there is still room for growth in volumes handled.

Indeed, in the first two months of 2018, Lisbon posted growth of 10.4% in dry bulk movements, mostly brought about by the cement market, but also by additional tonnages handled of barley, wheat, sunflower and rapeseed, and soya cake.

The port is mainly known, though, for its exports of clinker, cement and sand, and imports of corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as scrap and waste iron.

Going forward, the APL says that it is strongly betting on growth in the agribulk sector, for which it claims Lisbon has the best storage and best natural conditions in the country. Facilities for the large vessels associated with these trades remain first class. It is adamant that it offers facilities required by today’s deep draught bulk carriers, particularly those working in the agribulk sector. For example, there are berths sufficient to accommodate 255- metre long vessels, drawing up to 17.5 metres of water.

“The export of bulk cement to destinations such as the United Kingdom, France and Spain is clearly a traffic that we are attracting, given solid prospects of growth,” notes the port authority.

Quizzed about terrestrial transport of dry bulk to and from the port, the APL notes that inland waterway accounts for approximately 62% of total movements and road the rest.

Rail is used, although not extensively, the major problem being that many end users either aren’t rail connected or don’t make use of neighbouring branch lines. Nevertheless, the APL remains committed to rail development. In the shorter term, it wants to see as much road traffic as possible shifted to inland waterway and perhaps also to rail.

Currently, the port authority is developing a market and feasibility study looking into the navigability of the Tagus estuary. The aim is to improve conditions of the existing river service and also attract inter-terminal movements along the river itself.

In terms of environmental protection, one of the large agribulk terminals at the port has recently invested in new handling equipment that has incorporated elements aimed specifically at preventing air pollution. This is important, since the facility handles 200,000 tonnes of cereals annually, possibly increasing to 500,000 tonnes, equivalent to 8,000–20,000 road trips per year.

Lisbon is an interesting port in that three of its six main dry bulk terminals, namely those operated by Sovena, Iberol and Cimpor, are associated with industrial units that process raw materials.

In terms of cement, for example, the local plant is equipped with a heating facility where both clinker and cement are produced; these are then shipped for export through the port terminal.

As for agribulk, the specialist terminals receive raw materials such as grain and oilseeds. These are then sent for processing at soybean, sunflower and rapeseed extraction units, while others are turned into biodiesel and other refined products. Part of the overall output is then shipped through the port’s terminals.

Portugal’s ETE Group was founded in 1936 and is, today, the country’s most expansive dry bulk handling company. Within the umbrella, there are nowadays some 42 separate companies, of which ETE/TMPB, Aveiport, Portsines and TCGL are possibly the best known in the dry bulk field. Indeed, ETE GROUP operates in all the country’s leading ports, with facilities in Aveiro, Leixo~es, Lisbon, Setu´bal and Sines. They lead dry bulk cargo operation in Portuguese ports, handling around half of the total volumes.

According to spokesperson Pedro Virtuoso, in 2016, the group’s terminals accounted for approximately 12mt of dry bulk, increasing to 13mt last year. Although this was a 7% year-on-year increase, Virtuoso concedes that the traffic base in 2016 was negatively impacted by dock workers’ strikes, which had depressed cargo throughput. “For 2018, we are expecting tonnage to increase,” he says.

Capacity is not a problem, since there is room to expand at all current terminals and concessions, he adds.

The main commodities handled are coal (which accounts for 49% of total volume), feed and food stuffs (10%), scrap (9%) and clinker (8%).

“Last year, there was an increase in all commodities we handled compared to 2016,” he says, noting that other bulks such as sand/silica, wood pellets, sugar and cement all form part of the group’s overall portfolio.

“We are looking into other dry bulks that we would like to attract to our installations. Were we to be successful, we wouldn’t have to add to our existing installations,” says Virtuoso.

In terms of terrestrial movements, most ETE Group terminals are serviced by road, with only a small percentage accounted for by rail. Virtuoso estimates that, in Lisbon, for example, rail accounts for just 5% of total dry bulk traffic, rising to 10% in Aveiro and reaching 20% in Sines.

“Port authorities are not focused on changing over to rail,” he remarks, noting that, in the port of Lisbon, about 25% of the port total consignments are moved up and down river by barges. For decades, the ETE Group has been the most important player in the Iberia Peninsula in respect of inland waterways cargo transport. This traffic has shown an upward trend and is expected to increase even further in the near future, due to a new river terminal being built by the Group, connecting our port terminals with the northern Lisbon logistics platform.”

He reports that ETE has environmental protection systems in place at all its dry bulk terminals, but is nevertheless constantly looking at ways of improving these still further.

In terms of adding value,Virtuoso points to the company’s multipurpose terminal in the Port of Sines, where coal blending is an important money generator. It is also a growing part of the company’s activities, he adds.

He confirms that, in line with most other countries, Portugal is receiving calls from ever larger bulk carriers; in this respect, Portugal is fortunate in having few major draught restrictions, although these vary from port to port. Indeed, depending on installation and trade, vessels vary from around 4,000dwt and 150,000dwt.

Last year wasn’t such a good one for the Port of Leixo~es and the Douro (APDL), which handled 2mt of dry bulk. This represented around a 1% decline over the previous year. Significantly, January was the most important month of that year, when 282,000 tonnes were handled.

During the course of 2018, the APDL is expecting a “significant increase” in dry bulk traffic. It bases this prediction on what has happened so far in the year. In January and February, for example, 434,000 tonnes passed through the port area, which represents an increase of 6% over the same period in 2017.

Quizzed as to whether the port has sufficient capacity to handle growing volumes, the answer was a definite affirmative. There are several terminals in the port that handle dry bulk, with quays of up to 690 metres in length and alongside draught of 11 metres and, in some cases, 12 metres. Quayside lift enables loads of up to 104 tonnes to be handled.

Dry bulk is the responsibility of the port’s Leixo~es General Cargo and Dry Bulk Terminal (TCGL), whose main handling focus is centred around the use of mobile harbour cranes. When these handle agri- bulk, discharge is undertaken using 40m3 grabs, which can generate productivity rates of 800 tonnes per hour.

Silos de Leixo~es (SDL), which has an operating area of 2.3ha, is responsible for grain storage. It has facilities that can store cereals, cereal derivatives, oil seeds and other foodstuffs. It has a combined capacity of 120,000 tonnes, of which 100,000 tonnes is in vertical silos and 20,000 tonnes in horizontal facilities.

The port also has a dedicated Cement Terminal, which both loads and discharge bulk cement. Concessionaire is the Companhia Geral de Cal e Cimentos, S.A (SECIL). The operating area covers 1,500mt2 and alongside draught is ten metres.

The main dry bulk commodities are woodchip, scrap metal, scrap glass, woodpellets, stone and agri-food. According to the APDL, volumes have continued to increase in the past few years. However, in agribulk given over to animal feed, there has been a slight downturn, although this has been offset by gains in other sectors.

Significantly, the port is targeting biomass. This is currently being moved in 20ft and 40 ft containers, although will later be moved as bulk. However, this will require new infrastructure. In the Silos de Leixo~es concession, a new 1,300m2 has been carved out to accommodate this new biomass bulk, but there is also the possibility of introducing new space dedicated to this type of cargo on land adjacent to the port under the jurisdiction of the APDL, if new products can be captured.

In terms of terrestrial connectivity, dry bulk connections with the interior are undertaken purely by road. However, improvements have been made in the port to allow part of the overall cargo to use rail.

As for environmental protection against dust produced by dry bulk at terminals in Leixo~es, this consists of barriers formed of containers to designate handling areas, as well as the use of sprinklers to reduce the amount of dust in the air, and hoppers that also limit that amount of dust that can escape into the atmosphere.

A port authority spokesperson noted to DCI,“As environmental protection is one of the major concerns of the port, we are constantly studying innovative solutions that can reduce our negative impact. At the moment, for example, we are looking into using some chemicals especially developed to reduce as much dust movement as possible.”

In terms of added value, Silos de Leixo~es is active, undertaking product de- infestation, cleaning and transport to industry. This whole sector is seen as one of “growing opportunities”, although is highly competitive.

Finally, in respect of vessel sizes, those chartered in the solid bulk sector that operate at Leixo~es are generally of a considerable size, particularly those carrying woodchip, which are in the 65,000- tonne range. However, given draught of 12 metres at the port, most vessels of this type can be accommodated.