Video: Port of Rotterdam welcomes 15 millionth container for 1st time

Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dutch Port of Rotterdam received the 15 millionth TEU container of the year — the first time that a European port has broken this record.

On 22 December, the container arrived in Rotterdam on board MSC Erica, a 13,300 TEU ultra large container vessel (ULCV) operated by Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).

On Wednesday morning, the first containerships to arrive in the Port of Rotterdam in daylight were treated to a spouting serenade by the port authority patrol boat to mark the arrival of the 15 millionth TEU container.

The transshipment of containers went through a dip due to the COVID-19 outbreak but from autumn 2020 onwards Rotterdam has seen a rapid recovery.

When it comes to TEU volume, the first nine months of 2021 saw a 7.8% growth. Consumer spending is booming and the economy is recovering with volumes higher than they were in 2019.

This strong demand, together with the various disruptions that occurred this year — such as Suez Canal blockage and outbreaks of coronavirus in Chinese ports — means pressure on the logistics chain remains high.

In terms of TEU volume, transhipment grew faster than in terms of tonnage. There were a couple of reasons for this. For a small part, it was due to the increase in the transshipment of empty containers. However, the greatest effect could be put down to a sharp decline in the average weight of full containers.

Transport prices have risen sharply over the past few quarters. Consequently, the transport of relatively heavy, low-value freight has decreased. This effect was most noticeable with export containers but it could also be seen on the import side.

Expectations for 2022

“In 2022 we expect the extreme congestion at the Rotterdam container terminals to continue for the time being,” Emile Hoogsteden, Commercial Director at the Port of Rotterdam Authority, said.

“This is because the international container ship fleet and terminal capacity are not growing at a rate commensurate with demand.”

“The Port Authority will continue to emphasise and encourage the importance of digitisation, cooperation and data sharing to provide a better response to the global pressure on the logistics chain – now and in the future,” Hoogsteden added.