Rotterdam is cool
The container terminals in the Port of Rotterdam together have 12,000 connections for reefer containers. This is more than twice as many as the number two in the Hamburg-Le Havre Range (1). Also compared to the larger container ports in Asia, Rotterdam takes one of the top positions. PSA Singapore for instance has 7,000 connections for a total throughput of 29 million TEU (2011).
By far the largest number of reefer points, almost 11,000, can be found at the six main sea terminals. The other 1,000 are distributed over specialised inland shipping terminals (300) and depots for container storage (800).
About 70% of the connections at the sea terminals are concentrated at the three terminals on the Maasvlakte, although the two deep-sea terminals in the Waal/Eemhaven area have relatively more connections. The ranking for total capacity/connections is as follows:
Terminal Connections Total capacity (TEU/year)
- 1. ECT City 1359 1.100.000
- 2. Uniport Multipurpose 1250 1.200.000
- 3. Euromax 2136 2.300.000
- 4. APMT Rotterdam 2250 2.700.000
- 5. ECT Delta 3250 5.000.000
- 6. RST 640 1.440.000
Most of the services that call in at ECT City and Uniport terminals arrive from Latin-America, South and West Africa, Oceania and Iceland/Norway. These are the source areas for meat, fish and fruit; by far the most important products for reefer containers.
These frozen or refrigerated products are stored temporarily very close (Eemhaven, Maasvlakte) to the port and/or have a final destination on the continent a relatively short distance from Rotterdam, up to 500 kilometres. There is a large
-direct substantial demand from consumers, whether or not via wholesale points such as those from Brussels, Paris/Rungis, Venlo and Barendrecht. Consolidation with Dutch horticultural products takes place at the latter locations.
- indirect demand from the traditionally strong regional food processing industry. These also generate re-export in reefer containers and export of Dutch products, especially dairy.
In addition there is increased sea-to-sea transit from the southern hemisphere especially to Russia, and from Scandinavia to Asia (fish).
The favourable supply and demand situation is reinforced by the fact that many services call in at Rotterdam as the first port of unloading.
Mostly forty-foot containers are connected to the 11,000 connections. With a multiplying factor of 1.8, the static capacity is almost 20,000 TEU. With an average connection time of 3 to 4 days, the points’ maximum output could amount to 2 million TEU per year (2). Of course the actual results are reduced by seasonal influences (harvest and consumption patterns) while being stimulated by the value of the cargo and the higher costs of terminal spaces.
Shifting consumption and production patterns and system changes in shipping companies (large Asian services loading African cargo in Southern Europe) mean that the Maasvlakte is becoming increasingly important for cargo in reefer containers. The increase in shipping between the southern hemisphere and North Western Europe works in the same way.
The two terminals being constructed at Maasvlakte 2, that is Rotterdam World Gateway and APMT Rotterdam, will therefore have a large number of connections for reefer containers.
The dynamics aren’t limited to the sea area. Food has a strong emotional component and its transportation also needs to meet increasingly stricter quality requirements. Sustainability is an element of this and that is why more inland shipping is being used to and from Rotterdam for hinterland transport.
The dynamics for both sea and land mean that on the link points, the terminals, there is a rising demand for interim storage and reefer points. The hinterland also changes in this respect and the cooling chain is extended up to and including the smaller terminals there. Rotterdam Cool Port, which is expected to be kicked off this year, will be part of the chain as well.
The export of seasonal fruit from South America and South Africa starts in February, which means almost all the fruit, with the exception of bananas which are produced all year. In Rotterdam, the container share in this is now enormous, when compared to entire reefer vessels with separate pallets.
The structural demand for fruit in Western Europe is hardly increasing but it is in Central Europe. The strongest growth, however, is taking place in the Middle East and Asia (taste development plus increased buying power). As a result, and reinforced by the euro/dollar ratio, more fruit flows to Asia. Increasing supply is possible but it takes time before new trees and plants are productive.
Starting from today, 8 February the `Fruit Logistica´ will take place in Berlin, one of the largest annual trade fairs for the global fruit and food sector.
(1) The Port of Antwerp has approximately 5,000 connections and Hamburg has somewhat fewer.
(2) PSA Singapore handled 1.3 million TEU via 7,000 connections in 2011. Using similar calculations this means that a unit was connected on average 3.5 days. This corresponds with the spontaneous estimate of an ‘insider’ regarding the average connection time at the Rotterdam terminals: ‘Twice per week per point’.
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