Throughput in the port of Rotterdam for the year 2009 ended up 2 million tonnes higher than suggested by the provisional figures published at the end of December 2009, with record high handling levels of oil products, up 23.2%, achieving the biggest increase (13 million tonnes) ever.
The overall percentage decline in throughput is 8.1%, instead of the 8.5% as initially calculated. The difference is due primarily to a slightly smaller decline in imports of crude oil.
The volume of liquid bulk handled rose by 2.1% to 198 million tonnes. Imports of crude oil fell by 4% to 96.4 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 are expected.
Imports of oil products increased by 16.5% to 42.2 million tonnes, exports by 34.1% to 29.9 million tonnes. In total, a record quantity of 72 million tonnes (+23%) 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 America to Europe.
Thirdly, extra jetty and tank capacity was created, as a result of which the port was able to handle more cargo. Also 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%.
There was a 15.8% decline in other liquid bulk throughput, to 29.5 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 soyabean 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 US 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. 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%, Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO, comments.