Container transport up, surge in transhipment

During the first three quarters of 2017, inbound container transport to the Netherlands increased by 13 percent on average relative to the same period in 2016. Transhipment activity – onward transportation of unloaded containers to other seaports outside the Netherlands – surged by nearly 30 percent, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the growth in total container transport from Q1 to Q3 2017. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures.

Total cargo traffic in Dutch seaports grew by over 2 percent in the first three quarters of 2017. Incoming and outgoing containers were good for one-fifth of total cargo weight transhipped at Dutch seaports.

Inbound container shipments at Dutch seaports (Year-on-year % changes in weight transported)
 TranshipmentTotal
2015 I9.59
2015 II-10.5-3.6
2015 III-12-3.3
2015 IV-15-2.8
2016 I-9.50.1
2016 II-0.43.5
2016 III9.71.8
2016 IV23.410.4
2017 I298.4
2017 II27.513.3
2017 III29.717.9

More and more container handling is transhipment

During the period Q1 to Q3 2017, more than 46 million tonnes of container goods were shipped into Dutch seaports, representing a year-on-year increase of 5.4 million tonnes. Over two-thirds of this growth - nearly 4 million tonnes - was realised in transhipment, i.e. handling of containers that are loaded onto seagoing vessels and shipped to other seaports abroad. The share of this transhipment in total incoming container traffic went up to 37 percent as a result.

This type of cargo throughput is extremely competition-sensitive. Seaports handling transhipments are highly interchangeable as the destination of such containers is not determined by a seaport hinterland. In the Netherlands, over 99 percent of container handling takes place in the Rotterdam port area. Transhipment accounts for one-third of total container handling, indicating the importance of the Port of Rotterdam as a transit point for goods. Rotterdam is an attractive port for this type of transit due to its good accessibility for large container ships, the available terminal capacity and easy access to hinterland container flows for shipping companies. Port fees are charged for this type of container handling, including both loading and unloading of containers.

Inbound container cargo (million tonnes)
 Imports/Transit goodsTranshipments
2014 I8.34.3
2014 II8.95
2014 III8.84.7
2014 IV8.14.7
2015 I94.7
2015 II8.94.5
2015 III8.94.1
2015 IV8.54
2016 I9.44.2
2016 II9.44.4
2016 III8.74.5
2016 IV8.84.9
2017 I9.45.5
2017 II105.7
2017 III9.75.8

Types of goods carried in transhipment

The bulk of transhipment container cargo are goods from the product category wood and textiles. One in five transhipment containers carry this type of goods; in terms of tonnage, the share is as much as 30 percent. The Port of Rotterdam handles containers carrying wood from Finland, Russia and Sweden which are transhipped to China. Other types of products which are often shipped overseas via Rotterdam are food products, especially meat and (frozen) fish. In 2016, one in five transhipment containers carrying food products were shipped to Russia.

Waste paper transhipped to China

Shipping of waste products in containers is often in the form of transhipments. Of all containers carrying waste, 43 percent are being transhipped. The majority contain (waste) paper and cardboard, which are shipped from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Canada and Portugal to China, and - to a lesser extent - to India and Sri Lanka. Containers full of waste paper are shipped from Europe to China. As of 1 January 2018, China has imposed import bans on various types of waste.

Transhipment containers by product category, 2016 (%)
 Imports and transit to hinterlandTranshipments
Machinery78.421.6
Total76.423.6
Other72.627.4
Agricultural and food products72.527.5
Chemical products71.628.4
Building materials6733
Oil products65.834.2
Wood and textiles6139
Waste57.442.6