Throughput in Dutch seaports at record level

© Hollandse Hoogte / Berlinda van Dam
In 2018, the total volume of incoming and outgoing cargo shipments to and from Dutch seaports reached a historic high of almost 605 million tonnes. This is an increase of over 1.5 percent relative to 2017. At 4.5 percent, container transhipment saw the highest increase. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures.

Two-thirds of cargo handling in Dutch seaports consisted of unloaded goods in 2018. Three-quarters of these goods concerned dry bulk (ore, coal and agricultural products) or liquid bulk (crude oil and petroleum products). Incoming container shipments increased by 6 percent. Total weight of all loaded cargo grew by 1.3 percent.

Cargo throughput in Dutch seaports
JaarTotal (million tonnes)Inbound (million tonnes)Outbound (million tonnes)

Exports becoming increasingly important to ports

Over the past two decades, outbound cargo shipments from Dutch seaports have more than doubled. Inbound shipments have risen by more than one-quarter over the same period. Transhipments from the Netherlands to other countries currently comprise one-third of total throughput in Dutch seaports. Twenty years ago, the export share amounted to 21 percent. Exports have risen by over 100 million tonnes in the span of two decades. In 2018, total throughput exceeded the barrier of 600 million tonnes for the first time. The threshold of 500 million tonnes was crossed for the first time in 2007.

Steady increase in container transport

The share of containers in total cargo handling has grown steadily from 14 percent in 1998 to 21 percent twenty years later. Inbound and outbound flows are more or less equal in terms of size and trend. Container handling was up by 4.5 percent in 2018. Incoming container shipments increased by 6 percent and outgoing shipments by nearly 3 percent.

Of all imported container goods over 2018, nearly 20 percent originated from China. Russia and the United Kingdom follow with shares of 7.4 and 5.7 percent respectively. Imports from China were down by 12 percent relative to 2017. A major part of this decline concerned textiles and leather goods. Incoming container shipments from Russia (mainly wood and paper) and the United Kingdom rose by 32 and 43 percent respectively. The latter may be related to UK companies creating stocks in the Netherlands in the run-up to a Brexit.

Inbound and outbound cargo shipments at Dutch seaports
Soort lading en richtingInbound containers (million tonnes)Outbound containers (million tonnes)Inbound liquid bulk (million tonnes)Outbound liquid bulk (million tonnes)Inbound dry bulk (million tonnes)Outbound dry bulk (million tonnes)

Bulk transport stable in 2018

The weight of transhipped bulk goods did not increase in 2018. Tonnage of unloaded dry and liquid bulk rose; outbound liquid bulk was up by over 2 percent. Outbound dry bulk declined by almost 12 percent.

The dominance of bulk goods in seaports is diminishing. In 1998, three-quarters of all handled goods were in bulk, while this share was 68 percent last year. The flow of dry bulk was more or less stable in this period and amounted to approximately 140 million tonnes. Annual fluctuations are caused by changing demand for coal and iron ore, which strongly depends on economic developments. The volume of loaded wet bulk has quadrupled over the past two decades. These are predominantly refined petroleum products.

Transhipments at Dutch seaports, 2018
HavenRichting% change (year-on-year % change)
Rotterdam port areaImports0.8
Rotterdam port areaExports1.0
Amsterdam port areaImports-0.5
Amsterdam port areaExports3.8
Zeeland SeaportsImports12.8
Zeeland SeaportsExports-2.3
Groningen SeaportsImports10.2
Groningen SeaportsExports3.9

Rotterdam and Amsterdam slightly up, Zeeland and Groningen surging

Three-quarters of goods are loaded and unloaded in the Port of Rotterdam, which also includes the ports of Moerdijk, Dordrecht and Vlaardingen. Last year, both flows were up by around 1 percent. More than 16 percent of goods are handled in the Amsterdam port area (Amsterdam, Velsen/IJmuiden, Beverwijk and Zaanstad). Throughput rose by 1 percent. The number of unloaded goods in the seaports of Zeeland Seaports (Flushing and Terneuzen) and Groningen Seaports (Delfzijl and Eemshaven) was up by more than 10 percent in 2018.