“A new facility is currently under construction and will be completed shortly, which shows that effectively adding value to products is a growing area because it is what increases profit margins,” says Toledo.
Cartagena, which is located on the Mediterranean coast, is another of Spain’s major dry bulk ports. Last year, traffic rose by almost 10% to 5.82mt, making it Spain’s sixth most important port for this type of traffic.
One of the main reasons for the upswing in traffic is that the new Repsol refinery now uses the port to export the pet coke that it makes. There were also notable increases in imports of cereals and derivatives that are used to make animal feed.
As for 2018, the port authority notes that over the past decade the average annual increase in traffic has been in the order of 4% and that this is, once again, the target that they are aiming for.
Significantly, the port is well placed to continue adding volume, since there is sufficient capacity to double existing traffic levels. Indeed, in the past few years, land reclamation projects have seen 60ha of land won back from the sea, which has been used to site two brand new dry bulk terminals and a logistics activity area.
The types of dry bulk commodity handled by Cartagena split neatly between vegetable and mineral. In the former, there is agribulk: cereals and derivatives, soya beans, animal feed and fodder. The latter mostly comprises solid fuel. Both sectors are increasing in volume. However, in the past, construction materials used to constitute major traffic for the port, but ever since the financial crisis of 2010 and following the building of the afore- mentioned Repsol plant, construction materials have given way to solid fuel.
Not resting on its laurels, the port authority is trying to increase scrap metal exports. At present, there is a dedicated 230,000m2 scrap terminal, which is accessed via a 576-metre quay that has alongside draught of 21 metres. Quayside lift consists of two MHCs, of 100 tonnes and 140 tonnes respectively.
Cartagena is another of Spain’s port that currently relies exclusively on road for movement of dry bulk. However, all this is to change considerably in the near future, since a rail connection is being built that will encompass access to all terminals by the end of the year.
In terms of the environment, Cartagena has been recognized by the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) as one of the top five ports in Europe in terms of sustainability. Indeed, in the past few years, a series of measures has been undertaken to improve the efficiency of the water and electricity networks to reduce usage by more than 10%.
Cartagena offers users 100,000m2 of covered warehousing and 400,000m2 of open stockpile for those companies that are established manufacturers in the port and which effectively use it as their distribution hub. Various examples are Bunge, Fomdesa, Holcim, Lafarge, Agrosur, Repsol and Qui´mica del Estroncio.
Finally, in respect of vessel sizes, Cartagena remains one of Spain’s deepest draught ports, capable of receiving vessels drawing up to 21 metres of water, so can therefore accommodate any bulk carrier currently afloat.
Spain’s south-easterly port of Almeri´a registered a 19.74% increase in dry bulk traffic last year, in which time it handled 5.62mt.
The port itself is divided between harbour operations at Almeri´a and at Carboneras. At the former, gypsum exports rose by 32% and salt by 84%; at the latter, coal imports were up 28% while gypsum exports grew by 41%.
To understand why coal imports went up so strongly, it is important to realize that in years of low rainfall, as was the case last year, Spain produces less hydroelectric power and therefore has to import more coal. On occasions, one of the two adjacent Endesa power stations fed from Carboneras is closed for maintenance and that results in less coal being required.
However, last year, there was also a rise in demand for coal in the off-shore Balearic islands, with new infrastructure at the port now dedicated to this.
As for how 2018 might pan out, coal traffic will again depend heavily on rainfall, making predictions difficult to make so early in the year.
The overall feeling at the port is that current infrastructure is adequate to deal with demand, especially since this varies between broadly established parameters.
A port authority spokesperson, for example, explains that while last year’s coal imports increased dramatically, this was still within previously understood expansion ranges, which will sometimes mean that overall volumes of dry bulk at the port will rise and fall.
While in the longer term gypsum exports have remained stable, clinker has fallen.
As for new possible dry bulk commodities, the port authority reports that the re-opening of the iron ore mine at Guadi´x is under consideration. However, it remains to be seen if it is finally put into production and whether it will be Almeri´a or Carboneras that handles shipments.
Both ports are unusual in that rail plays no part in the movement of dry bulk consignments, despite the large volumes involved. Previously, iron ore was shipped by rail and that might recommence if the above mentioned mine reopens.
Mindful of the environmental contam- ination potential of its traffic, the port authority has built a new dust trap fence and introduced sprinkler systems, while agreements have been struck with operators to close down operations whenever there are strong winds. An agreement has also been signed with a university to monitor particle collectors.
Although neither Almeri´a nor Carboneras offers added value services, there is a bagging operation for imported peat that takes place at one of the port’s warehouses.
Vessels sizes do appear to be on the increase, especially at Carboneras, which sees calls from large coal bulk carriers.
In the Port of Bilbao, dry bulk traffic last year grew by 4% to 4.5mt. Around 22% of this traffic is accounted for by soya beans, which grew for the second year running. The port also handles considerable quantities of cement and clinker, as well as other non-metallic minerals.
For last year, and despite the threat of Brexit, the UK remained Bilbao’s leading market, with dry bulk tonnage to and from that country up 62%.