Rotterdam port warns Netherlands at risk of falling behind in green strategy
The Netherlands and Europe are in danger of falling behind when it comes to the production of renewable energy and the preservation of strategic industry. CEO Allard Castelein of the Port of Rotterdam Authority issued a warning about this when presenting the annual figures of Europe’s largest port. He also again pointed to the still unresolved nitrogen emissions issue in the Netherlands.
According to the port leader, the war in Ukraine has shown the risks of a high dependence on one country or a handful of countries for crucial sectors. “In that sense, the war should be an incentive to strengthen the resilience of the Netherlands and Europe in the field of energy and industry,” Castelein said in a statement.
“But things like the lack of pace in the nitrogen dossier, the high energy prices in Europe and the speed and scale with which the U.S. government is now driving the sustainability of its industry, threaten to put the Netherlands and Europe at a disadvantage. We really need to move towards a higher acceleration.”
The port authority is particularly concerned that almost four years after the important nitrogen emissions ruling by the Council of State in 2019, it is still unclear how the Netherlands will get out of the nitrogen impasse. Last year, the Council of State also decided that construction projects will no longer automatically receive permission to temporarily emit nitrogen.
The latter case specifically concerned the Porthos CO2 Transport and Storage project in the port of Rotterdam. In order to limit delays as much as possible, a special guarantee scheme has now been agreed with the government for this project. But in Rotterdam, many more major projects are also planned. If the industry wants to realize sustainability projects, more space is needed regarding nitrogen emissions, the port authority said.
Nevertheless, the port authority had a good year financially in 2022. Turnover rose by almost 7 percent to around 826 million euros, mainly because the rental of sites generated more money thanks to price revisions. The throughput remained almost the same. Profit remained about even compared to 2021, at over 247 million euros.
According to financial director Vivienne de Leeuw, this “healthy financial position” is also important with a view to the transition to renewable energy. She compares the port authority to an “investment engine.” For example, a large amount of money is being invested in quay walls and jetties, but also in infrastructure for the energy transition. “By remaining a port with world-class infrastructure, we ensure that this remains an attractive location for companies to invest in the transition.”
Looking ahead to this year, the port authority is not yet making very concrete predictions. For the time being, the expectation is that the economy of the Netherlands and that of Europe will stagnate. This would mean that throughput volumes show a limited decrease. But the port authority adds that the current geopolitical situation still creates many uncertainties.
Transshipment in the port of Rotterdam remained virtually the same last year despite the war in Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and a weakening economy. The Port of Rotterdam Authority noticed that significantly fewer oil products and containers were processed. On the other hand, the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) increased sharply as an alternative to Russian gas. Coal imports also increased.
According to the port’s annual figures, a total of 467.4 million tons of goods were transshipped, compared to 468.7 million tons in 2021. The impact of the war and sanctions was most clearly felt in the oil and gas trade. LNG experienced an increase of almost 64 percent. Throughput of oil products, including fuel oil, fell by just under 11 percent.
There was, however, a higher throughput of crude oil. At the beginning of last year, this concerned Russian crude oil, mainly to India. Later, more crude oil went to Germany, for example, to replace oil that was previously delivered via pipelines from Russia. Because that oil came from far away, the number of mammoth tanker ships also increased. There were 156 last year, almost six times as many as a year earlier.
It is also notable that the throughput of coal increased by almost 18 percent. Coal was seen as a cheap alternative to generate electricity. Much of it has also been imported from the United States, for example, because Russian coal is no longer allowed.
On the other hand, throughput of agribulk decreased due to reduced imports of agricultural products from Ukraine and because the high energy prices made the processing of this type of product less interesting. High energy costs were also a reason for the German steel industry to scale back production, resulting in almost 16 percent less iron ore.
Container throughput amounted to almost 140 million tonnes, almost one tenth less than in 2021. Before the war, more than 8 percent of the containers in Rotterdam were still related to Russia. That trade has almost completely disappeared. In addition, the container sector suffered from persistent disruptions, mainly due to the coronavirus lockdowns in Asia. Many empty containers went that way, while in Rotterdam terminals and distribution centers were sometimes overcrowded.
Reporting by ANP