EUROPEAN TRADE - Ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam ready for exceptional growth
By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
The Port of Rotterdam (Mainport) excels above all other European ports in terms of throughput. In 2005, the port handled 370.2 million tons, 171.3 million tons of which was liquid bulk cargo; 91.2 million tons of containerized freight, and 89.4 million tons of dry bulk cargo. Antwerp, Europe’s second busiest port, handles less than half of Rotterdam’s totals. In 2005, Rotterdam was the third busiest port worldwide behind No. 1 Shanghai, and No. 2 Singapore.
Mainport is mammoth. Covering 25,935 acres comprised of 12,350 acres of industrial sites; 8,645 acres of waterways, and 4,940 acres of rail, road, pipelines and greenery. Mainport also encompasses three large-scale distripark areas: Maasvlakte, Botlek, and Eemhaven. Maasvlakte is the largest, located right on the North Sea next to the ECT Delta Terminal. Each distripark is strategically located close to major container terminals and the city’s transport links to the European market.
With containerized capacity expected to increase over 40%, from 9.3 million teus in 2006 to 16 million teus in 2013, Mainport is experiencing major efforts to expand capacity capabilities in anticipation of this huge growth. The goal is to retain its position as Europe’s primary seaport.
Distribution is a major focus for the port. “Not every type of distribution should be here,” comments Minco A. van Meezen, port spokesman. “We are focusing on larger volume distribution in and out.”
Nippon Express/Cannon, DHL/Epson, Reebok, Excel and a host of others are already located at the port. “They do a limited amount of value added logistics, such as receiving, repacking, and light manufacturing, but it is not prevalent,” van Meezen says. “We are not under pressure to create jobs as some other ports are.”
Reaching out from the city to reclaimed land in the North Sea, the length of the port area is slightly over 30 miles. Some 35,000 deep sea ships and 130,000 inland waterway vessels call at the port each year.
Europe Container Terminals (ECT), which is part of the Hutchinson Port Holdings Group, operates three terminals at Rotterdam: ECT Delta Terminal, ECT Home Terminal, and ECT Hanno Terminal. The 583-acre ECT Delta Terminal offers water depth of nearly 56 feet, making it possible for 10,000-teu vessels to berth.
The ECT Delta Terminal is currently undergoing a major expansion. By the end of 2006, 27 deep sea cranes and one barge crane will be operational at the Delta Dedicated West Terminal (DDW) and Delta Dedicated East Terminal (DDE), increasing their capacity by 1.5 million container moves a year.
Other measures aimed at improving performance are also being implemented, such as terminal software, dual cycling (both loading and discharging a container in one single crane movement), twin carrying (two 20-foot containers on one AGV) and twin lifting (loading or discharging two 20-foot containers at the same time).
A distinguishing factor is that Rotterdam Mainport is a barge port. “This gives us a competitive edge,” says Alice H. Krecht, port marketing manager North America. “We offer good connections to the Rhine River.”
Today, 48% of the port’s business is destined for Europe’s hinterland. Only five percent, however, is transported by rail, a segment the port is working to upgrade. Twenty-one percent travels by pipeline, and 26% is transported by road. By comparison, 69% of inland freight in Germany moves by rail; 13% by barge, and 15% by rail.
Key to Rotterdam’s objectives for 2006-2010 is the development of the Betuwe Route, a dedicated freight-only line from Rotterdam to Germany. Scheduled to open next year, this double track route will be jointly operated by ProRail, the manager of the Dutch railways, and the port authorities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The Route, which took 15 years to develop, will handle container and bulk traffic.
“It is a tremendous project given the soils (reclaimed land) we have to work with,” says Krecht.
Logistics service providers and shippers will benefit from the route given the possibility of transporting freight in a single operation (and without delay) from Maasvlakte to Germany and central Europe. It offers the shortest route from the container and other terminals to European customers in the eastern and southeastern Europe.
“The new route will build reliability into shipping goods into Europe’s hinterland and save time,” states van Meezen. “Rail can also pull heavier trains. In the future, we see the system utilizing double stack.”
The Betuwe Route will hook into Germany’s railroad track at Duisburg, Germany. Europe Container Terminals (ECT), which operates ECT Delta Terminal at Mainport, also operates DeCeTe Duisburg, with daily inland shipping on the Rhine River, and rail service to Rotterdam.
“At this point it is no longer a dedicated rail system,” says van Meezen. “Germany’s railroad capacity is so large, there are no bottlenecks.”
Given that there is no more room in the existing port and industrial zone for growth, Rotterdam is in urgent need of extra space. By reclaiming land in the North Sea, the Port of Rotterdam Authority is addressing this issue by developing Maasvlakte 2. The new port will provide 2,500 acres of new industrial sites adjacent to deep water. Inland and deep sea vessels will be able to utilize the port when it is completed in 2012-2013. In total, Maasvlakte 2 will expand the port by 20% and add capacity for one million teus. On June 28, the Port of Rotterdam Authority received five proposals from companies and consortiums for a container terminal on Maasvlakte 2. Meanwhile, the Port Authority concluded a contract with APM Terminals for the right to operate another terminal on Maasvlakte 2.
Port of Amsterdam
While the Port of Rotterdam holds 42% of Europe’s seaport market share, Amsterdam Seaports weights in at only nine percent, alongside Le Havre. Consequently, it ranks as approximately Europe’s fifth largest port. In 2005, Amsterdam Ports handled 74.9 million tons, up seven percent over 2004. The port is largely a liquid and dry bulk port, although it handled 6.8 million tons of general cargo in 2005.
“We expect to be handling 250,000 teus this year,” comments Mannes Boelen, commercial manager breakbulk, containers and logistics for the port. He sees the greatest growth in liquid bulk, coal and containerized freight. The port leads the world in bulk cargo shipments that include agribulk, cocoa, coal and gasoline.
Currently, port officials are lobbying in The Hague for more accessibility at the port. “This is very important to us because vessels have to go through locks,” Boelen says. “When we get more container ships, this might create congestion. The locks are capable of handling vessels hauling up to 8,000 to 9,000 teus thanks to their depth.
The largest percentile growth in the first half of 2006 was in container transshipment (464%), compared to the first six months of 2005. This major increase is attributed to three intercontinental line services to and from China, Japan and South America.
Port officials are also working to stimulate more barge traffic given Amsterdam’s strategic Amsterdam-Rhine Channel that has unlimited access to all major destinations along the Rhine stretching to Basel, Switzerland. Its Ceres Paragon Terminal has an annual capacity of one million teus, with nine post-Panamax cranes, 39 straddle carrier yard systems, on-terminal rail and barge facilities, a paperless gate system, and the capacity to expand from 141 acres to nearly 300 acres.