The war in Ukraine led to unprecedented changes in goods flows last year. At 467.4 million tonnes, total throughput in Rotterdam was almost the same (-0.3%) as in 2021 (468.7 million tonnes) but the underlying figures show that there were major changes.
Container throughput fell by 5.5% in TEU (-9.6% in tonnes), mainly because container traffic to and from Russia came to a virtual standstill after the invasion of Ukraine. Imports of LNG, mainly from the USA, increased by 63.9% as an alternative to Russian gas. At the same time, coal imports rose by 17.9% as mainly German coal-fired power plants were used more. In line with the sanctions, companies reduced imports of Russian oil, oil products and coal, and succeeded in importing them from elsewhere.
The dry bulk segment saw an increase of 1.7% to 80.1 million tonnes. The agribulk segment is always strongly influenced by harvest yields in different parts of the world. There were reduced imports from Ukraine last year and high energy costs also caused less processing of agribulk. High energy costs were also a major reason for the lower production in the German steel industry. As a consequence, imports of iron ore declined by 15.5%. The throughput of coal, which in addition to being used in blast furnaces is primarily burned in power plants, rose sharply by 17.9%. Coal was cheaper than natural gas and it also reduces dependence on natural gas (in particular from Russia). In order to burn less natural gas in gas-fired power plants, the Dutch government lifted the production cap that had just been introduced for Dutch coal-fired power plants. Imports of Russian coal have been banned since August. More coal was therefore imported from the USA, South Africa, Australia and Colombia. Biomass throughput rose by 13.7%. Other dry bulk fell by 14.2%. The main causes are stockpiling due to the uncertainty of supply lines, and high prices for the shipping of containers: cargo that can also be transported in bulk, such as industrial minerals and fertilisers, is therefore being transported in this way more often.
Other break bulk was 10.4% higher. A major factor was the increase in imports of steel and non-ferrous metals. The sharp rise in energy prices made European industrial production relatively expensive, with a subsequent increase in imports of steel and non-ferrous metals from, among other places, Asia, where demand was low due to COVID-19. In addition, high container rates meant that, as in the ‘other liquid bulk’ sector, more cargo was shipped as break bulk.