In conversation with Director Breakbulk at Port of Rotterdam Danny Levenswaard.

Last year the Port of Rotterdam saw an increase in volume of 15%, reaching a new record of 6.9 million tonnes of breakbulk throughput and surpassing its record breaking year in 2019 (6.6 million tonnes). That means that the breakbulk market recovered completely from the economic slowdown that was caused by COVID-19 in the year 2020. New cargo volumes were loaded and discharged at the port. This was enforced, amongst others, by the high container rates as material that was normally transported by container was now shipped by breakbulk carrier.

Director Breakbulk at Port of Rotterdam Danny Levenswaard,

According to Director Breakbulk at Port of Rotterdam Danny Levenswaard, it is difficult to predict what this year has in store for the port as the current market situation is heavily influenced by multiple external factors. “We do believe that overall, we can maintain a steady breakbulk volume over the year 2022”, he says. “As long as the rates for containers remain high, the chance that steel, non-ferrous and forest products will be shipped by breakbulk will be more likely, making a positive impact on the port’s breakbulk volume. But we have to take the conflict Russia/Ukraine into consideration as well. And this war can have a negative impact on the overall economic situation. Sanctions are being implemented which will restrict cargo to be shipped. As Russia accounts for roughly 15% of the total volume being shipped through Rotterdam (including breakbulk), it can have serious consequences for us.” 

Challenges

Sustainability is the biggest challenge facing this industry according to Danny Levenswaard. He explains that the entire supply chain will be affected as everyone involved is forced to come up with sustainable solutions to supply and produce ‘green’ materials. And the same goes for shipping companies as they contribute to a high emission of CO2. Alternative fuels such as LNG and hydrogen, but also the use of shore power, will take flight these upcoming years. He highlights: “That means that the port has to change too. With the ambition to become CO2 neutral in 2050, numerous steps have to be taken in order to realise this. Think of electrification, providing the right infrastructure and stimulating the use of alternative fuels and solutions.”

When it comes to the shipping industry making a transition to zero-emission shipping, port of Rotterdam is a frontrunner. Rotterdam is one of the largest bunker ports in the world and LNG bunkering is already well-established. In December 2021 shipping company CMA CGM and energy company Shell performed the first Bio-LNG bunkering trial in Rotterdam. As Danny Levenswaard explains: “LNG is the first integral step to decarbonise the shipping sector. And Bio-LNG has the potential to become a net zero emission marine fuel.”

Port infrastructure and vessel design

The increase in scale will also become a challenge within the industry and more specifically for the HLPC segment. The offshore wind industry is a main driver for growth in this industry. This segment is experiencing strong technical innovation which further increases the size of the objects used within the industry. As a result capacity of vessels, cranes, deck space but also port infrastructure need to increase to be able to handle the products (monopiles, blades, tower section, jackets etc.). This will have a major impact on port infrastructure and vessel design. 

Digitisation

The port is working hard to maintain its status of having the ‘best port infrastructure in the world’, recently awarded to it by the World Economic Forum for the seventh consecutive time. Efficient use of the infrastructure – which will in turn lead to cost savings among the carriers – will not be possible without further digitisation of the port. That is why initiatives are undertaken to better control and manage the port and port infrastructure and to create improved insight into the efficiency of logistics processes. 

Opportunities

“In 2022 we will see the start of the first offshore WTG installation project from Rotterdam (HKZ 1-4) and this will continue into 2023”, says Danny Levenswaard. “We expect more room and infrastructure to be developed in 2022 which will in turn give the stevedoring companies the possibility to attract more cargo. At the moment we also see existing cargo packages being enlarged as the economy is flourishing, though the Russia/Ukraine conflict can negatively influence this. And we will try to help shipping companies increase their services via the port, so the vessel activity and connectedness of Rotterdam will increase.

Breakbulk initiative

“Our Breakbulk Carrousel is an interesting initiative,” the breakbulk director explains. “It has been developed by four Rotterdam-based breakbulk companies to enlarge their terminals through exchanging existing plots and redeveloping new plots.” Companies that take part in this carrousel are Broekman Logistics, Metaal Transport, RHB Stevedoring & Warehousing and JC Meijers. In total, roughly 12 hectares will be redeveloped, and this will be used for the handling of steel, non-ferrous and heavy lift and project cargo. This will further strengthen and enlarge the breakbulk cluster.

Future plans for the Port 

“We expect that the breakbulk throughput in Rotterdam will increase over the coming years as Rotterdam has proven to be an excellent port to handle these types of cargoes”, according to Danny Levenswaard. “Especially our diversity (steel, non-ferrous, forest products & HLPC) ensures a stable business climate that attracts multiple shipping companies towards Rotterdam. At the same time we are redeveloping multiple areas for breakbulk and always working on improving our proposition mainly by way of our existing terminals.  And at the Sif quay, specifically designed for receiving so-called jack-up vessels, we have recently taken 200m heavy deep sea quayside into operation as well as a fixed RORO facility for handling oversized offshore WTG components.  Last but not least,  when it comes to shore power, Port of Rotterdam will have a new pilot starting soon at Steinweg in collaboration with Cargow.

Waalhaven, Port of Rotterdam

Breakbulk Europe

Rotterdam is proud to host its first Breakbulk Europe Exhibition in May 2022. Danny Levenswaard explains, “We really want to make this exhibition into a big success and to provide that wonderful breakbulk atmosphere throughout the event. Finally, after two years of not being able to put this exhibition on, the Rotterdam based companies that make up the Breakbulk Community Rotterdam are extremely excited to present Rotterdam and their respective companies to the world.”

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