Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Early in January North Sea Port posted a record year for the third year in succession. It was reported that the firms based in the port transhipped 71.4 million tonnes of seaborne cargo, an increase of 1.5%. The growth is mainly due to dry bulk and containers. (Our illustration kindly provided by North Sea Port shows a bulk trade.)
Moreover, the figure of 71.4 million tonnes means North Sea Port has broken the 70 million tonne barrier for the second time. This rise is primarily down to a growth in exports for the third consecutive year (+9.9%). Two years after its launch as a merged port, North Sea Port is maintaining its position as a true bulk gateway and is also making progress as a hub for containers between maritime and inland waterways.
Dry bulk and containers on an upward trajectory
Almost half of the goods that North Sea Port tranships is dry bulk. That volume rose to 34.6 million tonnes last year (+5.4%). Over two years, this segment is up 10%. A strong construction sector again meant increased transhipment of sand, gravel and construction materials in 2019. Coal transhipment – especially for processing industries – and agricultural products remained steady. Scrap and ores showed a small decline.
With very strong growth of 48.7%, container transhipment amounted to a total of 2.5 million tonnes and 330,000 TEU. This segment has doubled in two years. As in previous years, this is the result of attracting new services and an increase in refrigerated containers. North Sea Port is also growing as a hub for onward transport of containers from maritime shipping to the hinterland via inland waterways.
Transhipment of wet bulk fell slightly to 20.1 million tonnes (-2.2%). This decrease was mainly evident in the (petro)chemical sectors, largely due to a maintenance shutdown. However, a sharp increase (+42%) was recorded in the transhipment of biodiesel and vegetable oil.
Transhipment of conventional break bulk cargo totalled 11 million tonnes (-6.6%). Part of this decrease is attributable to fruit because this is increasingly being transported in containers. However, the transhipment of machines is on an upward trend.
Ro/ro fell to 3.2 million tonnes (-9.6%), with a noticeable fall in the number of vehicles and trailers.
Inland navigation gets in on the act
The record-breaking was not confined to transhipment via ocean going vessels – inland navigation also set a new record, with an increase from 58 million to 60 million tonnes (+3.4%).
With transhipment of 71.4 million tonnes via ocean going traffic and 60 million tonnes via inland navigation, North Sea Port achieved a total of 131.4 million tonnes transhipped in 2019 (+2.1%). And this does not include a further 15 to 16 million tonnes of transhipment via pipelines.
Short sea shipping and transatlantic freight traffic
North Sea Port focuses on both European coastal shipping (short sea shipping) and transatlantic freight traffic. The share of short sea shipping within total freight transhipment via maritime services remained at 63%. As in previous years, goods traffic with Europe and North and South America accounted for more than 90% of total cargo transhipped last year (93.5%).
In 2019, North Sea Port released 44 hectares of land.
With a record year behind it and rising freight transhipment in dry bulk and containers, North Sea Port is cautiously optimistic for 2020, as it was in early 2019. A continuation of the current trend of light growth is anticipated. Brexit, shrinking economic growth and (anticipated) trade wars provide reasons for caution.
French container carrier, CMA CGM has announced its intention of launching a new product called Round the Africa (RTA) service to add to and complement the current 31 CMA CGM services already operating to sub-Saharan Africa.
A bit of a misnomer, the service is unique in terms of providing a direct service from Asia to Senegal and Sierra Leone along with best transit times, as well as calls to other selected West African ports.
Dakar is reached weekly from Ningbo in 35 days, from Nansha in 32 days. Freetown (Sierra Leone) is reached in 35 days from Nansha. The service offer to Tema (Ghana) is improved with three weekly departures.
‘Our exporters from West Africa will benefit of excellent transit time and direct service to China. Shanghai is reached in 29 days from Abidjan, 31 days from Tema, 36 days from Freetown and 39 days from Dakar,’ says the line in a statement.
One is left to assume the Round Africa part comes from the ships returning to Asia via the Cape of Good Hope.
Round the Africa service rotation is as follows:
Shanghai – Ningbo – Nansha – Singapore – Malta – Tanger – Dakar – Freetown – Tema – Abidjan – Port Kelang – Shanghai
In the current context, marked by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, terminals are showing a considerable drop in overall port volumes. This is associated with a decline in economic activity, and with a large number of blank sailings due to shipping lines’ attempts to align capacity with existing demand.
However, the paradox is that despite the fact that calls and volume arriving at the Port of Barcelona's BEST terminal have decreased, moves per call have significantly increased. This was reported from the port on 29 June.
During week 23 (1-7 June), BEST terminal welcomed the largest vessel to call at the Port of Barcelona, MSC Sixin, with a capacity of almost 24,000 TEU.
Subsequently, similar ships from the 2M alliance (Maersk + MSC) have been arriving on a recurring basis on passage between the Far East and Europe, grouping together all the moves that a few weeks ago were made between different services of the same alliance and which were cancelled due to the exceptional situation currently experienced.
During May and June, BEST terminal saw how the number of moves per call had broken all existing records in the Port of Barcelona – starting with almost 8,000 moves in week 22, all move records broken to reach almost 8,500 moves in week 24.
This change in demand, with large cargo concentration peaks on large deep sea vessels and a smaller number of calls, directly impacts on the way terminals must approach the services they offer.
It was found that the way to put forward a valuable proposal to shipping lines with these types of calls, is to offer productivity per call that exceeds by far the average efficiency in container terminals. With this in mind, it is important to highlight the relevance of the important investments made by BEST, both in the number of cranes capable of operating these types of ship, and in the terminal operating system (TOS) at all levels.