Sustained decline coal transhipment at Dutch seaports

Coal supply to Dutch seaports dropped by nearly 7 percent to 50 million tonnes in 2017. Coal transhipment saw a decline for the third consecutive year. Russia was the most important country of origin in terms of coal imports last year. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures.

In 2016, Dutch seaports handled 36 percent of total coal cargo supplied by sea in the EU. With 25 million tonnes of transhipments, Rotterdam remains the largest coal port in Europe. Maximum-size vessels are able to discharge their dry bulk coal here. Amsterdam comes in second as coal transhipment port (19 million tonnes), followed by Hamburg (over 7 million tonnes) in 2016. Coal is also supplied by sea to Groningen Seaports for consumption by the coal-fired power plant in Eemshaven.

Incoming coal shipments at Dutch seaports
 Rotterdam port area (million tonnes)Amsterdam port area (million tonnes)Zeeland Seaports (million tonnes)Groningen Seaports (million tonnes)

Coal transhipment crucial for ports

For Dutch seaports, coal constitutes a significant portion of total annual goods supply. One-eighth of inbound sea freight are coal shipments. In 2017, coal supply to the Port of Amsterdam represented nearly 30 percent of all unloaded cargo; one-quarter was destined for Velsen and IJmuiden.

In Rotterdam, 8 percent of total goods supplies are coal shipments. Coal transhipment in Rotterdam decreased by 11 percent in 2017 relative to the previous year.

Origin of coal

In 2017, Dutch seaports received over 50 million tonnes of coal. The largest suppliers are Russia, the United States, Colombia and Australia, together accounting for 80 percent of total coal supplies. Last year, Russia took over Colombia’s position as largest coal supplier. Relative to 2016, Colombia’s share declined by almost 43 percent last year; supply has dropped by nearly 10 million tonnes since 2011. Coal imports from Russia, on the other hand, surged by 350 percent during this period. The volume of coal received from the United States and Australia has remained fairly stable in recent years. Coal supply from South Africa peaked in 2014 with a share of 17 percent, and is now back at the level of 2011 with 7 percent.

Coal transhipment at Dutch seaports by country of origin, 2017
 Coal transhipment at Dutch seaports
United States21
South Africa7

Destination of incoming coal shipments

Of all coal arriving at Dutch seaports, the bulk is in transit to Germany. In 2017, around 30 percent was destined for coal-fired power plants and the steel industry in the Netherlands. Coal consumption in these industries fell by 10 percent last year; two coal-fired power stations were closed at Rotterdam’s Maasvlakte.

Coal transport mainly via inland waterways

For the Dutch domestic market, only a small portion of coal supplies needs onward shipping as the steel industry and most coal-fired power stations are located in port areas. Only the coal-fired power plant in Geertruidenberg is supplied by inland vessels.
The bulk (78 percent) of coal in transit to third countries is carried by inland vessels. The share of rail shipments in total international coal transport decreased to 22 percent last year. In 2016, more than one-quarter of coal exports were by rail.
Of all international transport via inland shipping, 20 percent concerns coal. In rail transport, the share of coal is 30 percent of the total weight which is carried abroad. In 2016, this share was as much as 34 percent.