Rotterdam reports 6% drop in volume for 2020

The Port of Rotterdam reported 436.8 million tonnes of goods handled in 2020, a drop of 6.9 percent compared to 2019.

The drop in volume was largely attributable to the coronavirus pandemic which saw decreases in iron ore (-24.5%), coal (-22.8%), crude oil (-10.2%) and mineral oil products (-11.9%). The drop in container volume was limited (-1.2% in tonnes, -3.2% in TEUs). Rises were seen in the throughput of agribulk (+4.8%) and biomass (+108.3%).

Allard Castelein, chief executive officer, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, commmented: “In an exceptional year, the port of Rotterdam was fully operational, allowing goods and raw materials to continue finding their way to consumers and businesses. I thank everyone who made a contribution: our clients, the nautical service providers and the logistical partners.


“My special thanks go to our colleagues at the Port Authority. Despite the corona crisis, the Port Authority booked a better financial result. Working with the government, the port’s business community and partners, we have made major progress on the road to a sustainable energy system and the reduction of carbon emissions. In this way, we are having an impact. I am proud of these accomplishments.”


Dry bulk throughput in 2020 (63.8 million tonnes) fell sharply by comparison with 2019 (74.5 million tonnes). Incoming iron ore and cokes were down, mainly due to the major decline in German steel production. The throughput of energy coal was lower than in 2019. Its share in electricity production, which had already dropped as a result of the pandemic, fell off even more due to strong competition from solar, gas and record wind production. A coal-fired power station on the Maasvlakte was also shut down. A positive exception was the rise in the throughput of biomass, more of which was used in the Amer9 power station in Geertruidenberg.


The throughput of liquid bulk was 192.0 million tonnes (2019: 211.2 million tonnes). The throughput of crude oil in Rotterdam declined due to less demand for oil products. For example, demand for kerosine collapsed as air traffic came to a virtual standstill because of coronavirus. Refineries responded to falling demand by producing less and reducing capacity utilisation. In the case of oil products, the decrease was mainly attributable to less throughput of fuel oil and gas oil/diesel. Stricter international regulations relating to emissions have led to a sharp drop in demand for high-sulphur fuel oil.


One bright spot was the rise in the throughput of other liquid bulk. In this group, there was strong performance in the throughput of biofuels and particularly biodiesel. That led to a strengthening of the position of Rotterdam as a hub for this product.


Container throughput in 2020 was unpredictable because of the pandemic. Initially, it was affected by the lockdown in China. After the virus spread further through Europe and the rest of the world, demand for goods fell sharply. Many services were also shut down. However, there was a strong recovery in terms of volume after the summer because consumers spent mainly on physical goods rather than services. Throughput volumes in the second half of 2020 were therefore higher than in 2019 (76.4 million tonnes as opposed to 75.7 million tonnes).


RoRo throughput volumes also varied unpredictably. After a sharp dip in the second and third quarter due to COVID-19, there was a rapid rise starting in September. Many companies stocked up at that time in anticipation of a disruption of the supply chain due to Brexit.


The Port of Rotterdam Authority’s financial results were better than in 2019. Contract revenue increased. In 2020, as in previous years, some site rental agreements with customers were renewed at market rates. The resulting additional income was partly one-off (catch-up effect from previous years) and partly structural. Revenue from seaport dues in 2020 was lower than in the previous year as a result of the fall in throughput caused by the corona pandemic. In addition, operating expenses where a lot lower than budgeted, on the one hand as a result of cost-cutting measures and on the other because of the cancellation of events and travel. That led to an operating result before interest, depreciation and taxes of € 477.5 million (2019: € 433.4 million).


The net result was € 351.7 million (2019: € 238.9 million). In addition to the one-off effects in the revenue from site rental, this result was also affected to a major extent by the fact that the planned reduction of the rate for corporation tax to 21.7% did not go ahead (remaining at 25%).


Due to its healthy financial position, the Port Authority is still able to make investments in improving the port infrastructure and making an impact on society as a whole. Gross investments, including participating interests, amounted to € 265.8 million (2019: € 338.3 million).


The Port Authority proposes to pay € 120.5 million in dividend for 2022 to the shareholders, the City of Rotterdam and the Dutch State, with € 78.7 million being paid to the city and € 41.8 million to the State.

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