The coronavirus pandemic led to highly exceptional conditions in the first quarter of 2020, with severe worldwide disruption of production processes and logistical chains. Closed factories, stricter border controls and restrictions on personal freedom of movement have disrupted society around the globe. This unprecedented situation and the consequences are affecting international trade hubs such as the port of Rotterdam. Throughput in the first quarter was 112.4 million tonnes, 9.3% down on the same period last year. It should be pointed out that volumes in container handling, LNG and biofuels during the first quarter of 2019 were at record highs.
With European demand slumping, Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority said “We are facing unprecedented disruptions and the port of Rotterdam, as a vital process, intends to continue contributing to society. The impact of a decline in demand due to the corona crisis will become clear from April onwards. A 10 to 20% drop in throughput volume on an annual basis would seem to be very likely. This will depend on how long the measures remain in place and on how quickly production and world trade recover”.
The throughput of dry bulk in the first quarter amounted to 16.7 million tonnes. That is 14% less than in the same quarter in 2019. There was a substantial decrease of almost 3 million tonnes in the throughput of coal (-39.6%). The main reason for this was that less power was generated from coal in Germany and the Netherlands. More electricity was generated from gas and wind because of the low gas price and large amounts of wind energy due to favourable weather conditions.
Ore throughput rose by 15.7% (920K tonnes). Steel companies purchased more stocks in the past quarter than last year, while production did not increase.
Other dry bulk decreased by 21% (-694K tonnes) due to postponed construction projects and the supplies of sand and building materials needed for those projects. There was also a decline in the flow of minerals in the first quarter due to declining industrial production in Germany.
Biomass throughput rose by 106%. This doubling was caused by the increase in the use of biomass in the Amer 9 power station in Geertruidenberg to between 80 and 90%.
Container throughput in tonnes was almost the same (-0.3% in tonnes, -4.7% in TEUs) as in the same period last year - which was a record quarter for containers at the time (+5.9% in tonnes, +7.3% in TEUs).
RoRo throughput was 7.3% down on the first quarter of last yearThe throughput of other break bulk was slightly lower (-3.2%) as a result of the economic downturn.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Harbour Master division and all the companies operating in the port industrial complex have the same two priorities: people's health and maintaining port operations. In order to keep Dutch society running, the Dutch government has identified the processes that are vital to achieve these priorities.
The sharp downturn in the global economy caused by the corona pandemic will also have a major impact on the port of Rotterdam. The impact of a decline in demand due to the corona crisis will become clear from April onwards.
A 10 to 20% drop in throughput volume on an annual basis would seem to be very likely. This will depend on how long the measures remain in place and on how quickly production and world trade recover.