Port of Rotterdam expects a "cautious recovery" in the next few months of the year as it saw volumes "stabilise and increase a bit" towards the end of the second quarter.
Europe's biggest seaport recorded a 9.1% decline in cargo throughput during the first half at the 218.9 million tonnes still due to the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emile Hoogsteden, director of commerce of the Port of Rotterdam Authority said the port's performance for the first six months of 2020 was “not that bad” as expected.
“If you had told me a year ago that by this time we’d have to announce a 9% decline in throughput I would have had a heart attack, but at this point in time, everything is relative, ‘it’s at least not as bad as we thought it would be,” Hoogsteden told an online briefing, noting that the throughput volumes for the quarter turned out to be “better than expected.”
The port saw a significant reduction in throughput of coal, ores and mineral oil products, a small reduction in container throughput, increase in throughput of biomass and LNG in the second quarter, although it cited a “healthy financial position,” allowing the European gateway to continue to invest at various high-level projects.
Hoogsteden said Port of Rotterdam also saw exports from the Netherlands to China grew by 12.5% — which he said was “remarkable” as export of full containers at the port has grown by 13.5% over the last six months.
“Towards the end of the second quarter we saw volumes stabilise and increase a bit, so that was good to see,” Hoogsteden said.
For the second half of the year, Hoogsteden said risks remain but there's optimism as traffic begins to pick up.
“If we look ahead of us and the remainder of the year we expect a cautious recovery. Of course, there’s great uncertainty surrounding that positive outlook. We feel here still and optimism, you see the procurement indexes picking up again,” he said, adding that “volume [is] picking up from the deep end, we see volumes coming back slowly but surely.”
In announcing the Port's performance earlier, Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority said “the Dutch economy and the port of Rotterdam are dependent on developments in world trade” — as he noted the negative economic impact of COVID-19 that continues to be felt worldwide.
“It should, therefore, come as no surprise that throughput volumes in the past six months were considerably lower than in the same period last year. On the positive side, the throughput volumes in the second quarter turned out to be better than initially expected,” he said.
In the outlook it released, together with its quarterly result, Port of Rotterdam noted that the recovery of the world economy “depends very much” on whether there will be a second wave of virus infections.
“There is considerable uncertainty about how long the recession will last and when recovery will begin,” the Port said in a statement.
“A cautious recovery of the economy is expected in the rest of the year. As a result, volumes in the port will not decline further but there will probably be no full recovery of volumes.”
Port Rotterdam said the total throughput volume for the whole of 2020 is therefore currently expected to be significantly lower than in 2019.