In 2009 the volume of liquid bulk handled at the Port of Rotterdam rose by 1% to 196 million tonnes.
Imports of oil products increased by 17% to 42 million tonnes, and exports by 32% to 30 million tonnes. In total, a record quantity of 72 million tonnes (+23% on 2009) was handled.
Comparable growth percentages have already been seen four times since 2000, but the absolute growth of 13 million tonnes is the largest ever. This is attributable for about two-thirds to gas oil/diesel throughput.
Forward prices for this commodity were higher throughout the year than the spot prices (contango), so that storage paid off. Up to the end of the summer, there was also good arbitrage (price differential between two regions minus freight costs), which attracted cargo from Asia, Russia and the US to Europe.
Thirdly, extra jetty and tank capacity was created, as a result of which the port was able to handle more cargo. A little more fuel oil in absolute terms the most important product was handled: around 36 million tonnes.
Naphtha throughput fell slightly and that of kerosene was up by about 10%.
Certain products did not fare so well. Imports of crude oil fell by close on 6% to 95 million tonnes. Demand for oil products was down and refining margins fell, as a result of which it became unavoidable to limit production.
In comparison with other regions, however, Rotterdam did noticeably better thanks to the strength of the petrochemical cluster. This and the anticipated increase in the refining margins counterbalance the high commodity stocks and the slow increase in demand in the OECD countries. In 2010, therefore, slightly higher throughput figures for crude oil (96 million tonnes) are expected.
There was a 16% decline in other liquid bulk throughput, to 30 million tonnes. The main cause of this is the 20-30% fall in production in the chemical industry. The handling of vegetable oils was up again, thanks to imports of crude palm oil for the refineries.
However, there was a substantial decline in the handling of soybean oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil. Biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol and ETBE) were also down. The moderate sugar harvest put pressure on Brazilian exports of ethanol. This was compensated for partly by imports of ethanol from Spain and France via Rotterdam.
Imports of biodiesel fell due to the European measures taken against the American B99 mix. This made way for the import of more biodiesel from Argentina, however.
After hitting rock bottom in the second quarter, throughput has been improving slightly every month and virtually all the investments are going ahead, Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority, CEO says. Rotterdam is doing better than its main rivals. I hope that we will be able to break through the 400 million tonne barrier again next year. That means growth in throughput considerably over 3%.