Port of Rotterdam in Full Transition in 2023

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Last year saw major investment decisions that are contributing to making the port and the logistics chain to and from Rotterdam more sustainable. The financial results were stable, putting the Port Authority in a position to commit to further investments for a future-resilient port in the years to come as well, reports Port of Rotterdam.

Creating economic value

Total cargo throughput in the port of Rotterdam this year amounted to 438.8 million tonnes, 6.1% less than in 2022 (467.4 million tonnes). The fall was mainly seen in coal throughput, containers, and other dry bulk. Throughput rose in the agribulk, iron ore & scrap, and LNG segments.

Finances

The Port Authority has had a stable year financially. Revenue rose by 1.9% to € 841.5 million, consisting mainly of contract revenue from land lease, and port dues. As a result of price changes and new contracts, contract revenue rose by € 28.4 million. Revenue from port dues fell by € 4.6 million due to a combination of lower throughput and a higher price per tonne. Operating expenses increased by 3.8% (€ 10.7 million) to € 292.9 million because of higher payroll expenses and overhead. The operating result before interest, depreciation, and taxes (EBITDA) rose on balance by 0.9% to € 548.6 million. The net result was 5.6% (€ 13.7 million) down at € 233.5 million (2022: € 247.2 million). The lower net result was attributable to two one-off items in 2023. Acquired nitrogen deposition rights were revalued downward (€ 8.0 million) in response to the ruling from the Council of State relating to the 25-kilometre cut-off. In addition, the Porthos guarantee premium (€ 7.3 million) was booked, leading to a lower result for participating interests. Furthermore, interest expenses in 2023 were € 6.8 million higher because of higher interest rates than in 2022. The dividend proposal for the shareholders (the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Dutch State) was € 129.0 million (2021: € 132.3 million).

The Port Authority invested a total of € 295.4 million, almost 15% more than in 2022 (€ 257.0 million). The largest investments in 2023 were the investments in quay walls for the container sector (€ 72.9 million), land reclamation for the Prinses Alexiahaven (€ 23.1 million), and the fendering in the Rozenburg lock (€ 12.8 million).

Throughput

Dry bulk

The throughput of dry bulk in 2023 was 11.8% down on 2022. A striking development in the agribulk segment was the increase in maize imports by 50% after crop failures due to drought and floods in Europe. Coal throughput fell by 20.3% to 23.1 million tonnes, mainly because of the low demand for energy coal for power production. In 2022, demand for energy coal rose sharply due to concerns about energy security and large increases in gas prices. The throughput of crude oil was 9.9% higher at 28.1 million tonnes. Ore stocks were replenished after low imports of ore in 2022 under low steel production. Outgoing scrap in Rotterdam was 32% higher.

The negative figures for the throughput of other dry bulk are attributable to lower demand for raw materials from European industry. The striking decrease of 49.4% in other dry bulk and the increase of 31.3% in agribulk were caused by a correction of erroneous declarations in the seaport dues system in 2022. After the elimination of this distortion, the decrease in other dry bulk was 24.7% and the increase in agribulk was 3.0%.

Liquid bulk

Liquid bulk throughput was 3.4% lower last year. Crude oil fell by 1.4% with the discontinuation of ship-to-ship transshipment. The throughput of mineral oil products fell by 6.5%, mainly because of the decline in the throughput of fuel oil and naphtha. This meant that the throughput of gas oil was higher than that of fuel oil for the first time. LNG throughput was 3.7% higher at 11.9 million tonnes. Europe continues to import large amounts of LNG to replace pipeline imports of Russian natural gas. There was also more bunkering in seagoing LNG tankers. Another liquid wet bulk was 5.9% down in all underlying categories (chemical, renewable, and vegetable products) at 36.1 million tonnes, primarily because of low demand and stock reductions.

Containers and break bulk

Container throughput in tonnes was 6.8% lower in 2023 at 130.1 million tonnes; the fall in TEUs was 7.0% to 13.4 million TEUs. Container throughput has proved to be very volatile in recent years in response to COVID-19 and geopolitical developments. The decline that began in 2022 continued in 2023. The main reasons are lower consumption, lower production in Europe, and the discontinuation of volumes to and from Russia under the sanctions. Port calls in the container segment were up slightly by 1.0%. However, container ship cargoes were 7.8% lower. Roll-on/roll-off traffic (RoRo) fell by 5.0% to 25.9 million tonnes. The weak British economy and lagging consumption continue to be the main causes. The 15,1% fall in other break bulk is largely attributable to the decline in container rates, which fell sharply in 2023, resulting in more cargo being shipped in containers rather than as break bulk. In addition, disappointing demand in Europe due to inflation and rising interest rates meant that many stocks were left in breakbulk terminals for long periods, leaving less room for additional cargo acquisition.

Investments in port development

Expansion of container terminals by APMT and RWG

Container Terminals APM Terminals and Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG) have announced plans to expand their terminals in the Princess Amaliahaven in 2023. The APMT expansion covers a site of some 47.5 hectares, including a deep-sea quay with a total length of one kilometer. It will add about two million TEUs in terminal capacity. The completion of the quay is planned for the second half of 2024. At RWG, the expansion involves about 45 hectares of terminal land and 920 meters of quay wall, increasing RWG’s capacity by 1.8 million TEUs in phases. Both terminals will be prepared for the use of shore power and will operate in carbon-neutral ways.

Container Exchange Route (CER)

The CER went into operation in late 2023. The 17-kilometre closed road network currently connects the container terminals of Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG), the Delta terminal of Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam (ECT), the terminals and depots of QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam (KDD, RCT and DCS) and the State Inspection Terminal of the Customs Authority. The CER is making a major contribution to security, integrity, efficiency, and sustainability in the Port of Rotterdam.

Nextlogic operational

After an intensive pilot phase, the green light was given for Nextlogic in January 2023. Nextlogic will allow for the faster handling of inland container vessels and the optimal utilization of quays. Several parties were scaled up last year, resulting in 1 million container moves being processed and time spent in the port falling by over 20%.

Widening of the Yangtzekanaal

In the years to come, more and increasingly larger container vessels will pass through the Yangtzekanaal to the Maasvlakte terminals. To provide more space for the current vessels and also to allow the ever-larger vessels to pass each other properly, the navigable channel of the Yangtze Canal will be widened along its entire length in the years ahead. The project consists of three subprojects. The first subproject began in September 2023 and it involves the construction of 500 meters of quay immediately alongside the entrance to the port of Rotterdam. Berths, including shore power, are being established at this quay for twelve tugs. Completion and commissioning are planned for early 2025.

Creating social value

Porthos

The definitive investment decision was made for Porthos in mid-October. The Porthos system for the transport and storage of CO2 consists of an onshore pipeline running from Botlek through the port area to a compressor station on the Maasvlakte. From the compressor station, the CO2 pipeline goes to empty gas fields under the bed of the North Sea. Most of this ‘backbone’ will be positioned in the existing pipeline strips. Valve or connection locations are planned at ten strategic locations to allow companies in the port to bring their captured CO2 into the system. Thanks to Porthos, 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year will soon be captured and permanently stored. CO2 storage is therefore a meaningful measure that will allow industry to contribute to the Dutch climate goals.

Construction of national hydrogen network

The construction of the national hydrogen network began officially on 27 October in the port of Rotterdam. The network, which is open to all hydrogen suppliers and buyers, will soon be 1,200 kilometers long and it will provide five Dutch industrial clusters with access to green hydrogen. The first section of more than 30 kilometers connects the Maasvlakte conversion facility to Pernis. The first of four hydrogen plants is now being built at the conversion facility. This 200MW hydrogen plant, the Holland Hydrogen 1, makes green hydrogen with electricity from offshore wind farms and is expected to be in a position to supply the first green hydrogen to the production site in Pernis in 2025. The proposed Delta Rhine Corridor will also provide a connection to Germany.

Shore power

Construction on the shore power installation for cruise vessels at the Holland America Quay began in early June. The Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management, the Municipality of Rotterdam, and the Port of Rotterdam Authority are providing the financing for the building work. Boskalis commissioned a large-scale shore power facility at its Waalhaven location in November. Some of the DFDS vessels that dock in Vlaardingen have been supplied with electricity from a shore power installation since late 2023. Using shore power reduces emissions of CO2, nitrogen, and particulate matter. It also reduces noise levels from ships significantly.

Distro Energy launched

Distro Energy, a scale-up of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, has developed an intelligent and fully automated trading platform that allows companies to trade the green energy they produce between themselves locally and optimize consumption. Initially, the marketplace will grow over the next year, primarily with the arrival of users in the Rotterdam industrial and port cluster. They include not only customers and producers but also energy suppliers and grid operators.

Land reclamation Princess Alexiahaven

The energy transition is generating a lot of demand for locations in the port area. The number of locations available for issue in the current port area is scarce. The Port of Rotterdam Authority is therefore making some areas around the Princess Alexiahaven suitable to accommodate new clients. Just under 10 million cubic meters of sand will be used to reclaim 85 hectares of land. Work began in July 2023 and it will continue until the summer of 2024.

Supportive government policy needed

The port of Rotterdam creates significant economic and social value for people in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Europe. Investments by the Port Authority and the port business community in Rotterdam focus on numerous projects that facilitate the transition to a new, more sustainable economy. It is therefore essential for the next Dutch government to devote enough attention to related factors such as adequate capacity on the electricity grid, an accessible port, a decisive nitrogen policy, and enough well-trained technical personnel to keep the transition going and strengthen the investment climate for the industry (including the chemical industry) in the Netherlands. This requires active and supportive policy from The Hague in terms of both measures and resources. With future-resilient decisions and a focus on policy implementation, the port of Rotterdam will be able to continue developing its position in international chains, make an important contribution to achieving national and European climate goals, and strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy.

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Source: Port Of Rotterdam

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