In a quarterly figures report released Thursday, the Port of Rotterdam said that total throughput tonnage fell by nine percent year-over-year in the first three months of 2020. The outlook for the remainder of the year appears to be similar, the port’s leadership cautioned.
Falling throughput tonnage was seen mainly in coal (-40 percent), crude oil (-8 percent) and oil products (-33 percent). High wind energy production and low natural gas prices meant that coal-fired power plants had lower demand for imported coal this season. On the liquid bulk side, shifts in Russian fuel oil exports meant that Rotterdam handled less bunker fuel transshipment activity, leading to reduced oil product volumes.
However, the port also noted positive developments. LNG imports were up by 18 percent, driven by electrical power generation demand. Container volumes were only down by five percent on a TEU basis relative to Q1 2019, which was a record-setting quarter. The lack of growth in container volume was largely driven by the state of the European economy and ripple effects from the U.S.-China trade war, the port said, as the COVID-19 shutdown in East Asia had not yet begun to register at Rotterdam’s container terminals until late March. The impact of a decline in demand due to the coronavirus crisis is expected to become clear from April onwards.
“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 percent 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,” said port CEO Allard Castelein in a statement.