Amsterdam Container Terminals, is to close, capping a doomed decade-long bid to shake off its White Elephant image and attract deep-sea container ships to a port just an hour’s drive from Rotterdam, Europe’s top container hub.
The decision by the terminal’s owners, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Ports Holdings, to throw in the towel, leaves Amsterdam, Europe’s fifth largest port, without a presence in the fastest-growing cargo sector.
The terminal, originally owned by the New York-based Ceres group, opened for business in 2001 but didn’t attract any regular services for four years despite boasting a novel indented berth that allowed it to load and unload vessels simultaneously from both sides.
Amsterdam’s bid to break into the big time container league appeared to be on track after NYK, a Japanese ocean carrier and member of the Grand Alliance shipping consortium, acquired a minority stake in 2002 and then bought out the original investor Christos Kritikos, in late 2006.
Amsterdam’s box traffic surged more than 10 percent in 2008 to 425,000 20-foot-equivalent units while Rotterdam’s throughput stalled.
The port was confident of exceeding 50 percent of ACT’s 1.2 million TEUs annual capacity, but traffic crashed to just 200,000 TEUs the following year after the terminal lost two of the Grand Alliance’s three Asia-Europe liner services – to Rotterdam.
The terminal’s fate was sealed in early 2010 when the Grand Alliance switched the remaining service to Rotterdam.
With carriers rationalizing Asia-Europe port calls and ordering ever larger vessels, ACT’s future as a terminal more than 30 miles inland from the open sea, looked bleak.
The loss of the three deep-sea services followed NYK’s decision to sell ACT to Hutchison in exchange for a minority stake in the Hong Kong group’s ECT terminal, Rotterdam’s biggest box facility.
ACT laid off most of its workforce in the past two years as it was relegated to the status of an “extended gateway” for ECT, handling mostly inland shipping containers.
The Amsterdam city council contributed $160 million to the terminal’s $215 million cost, mostly in infrastructure and container cranes.
While it has disappeared from the container rankings, Amsterdam remains a major European port, with throughput -- mainly dry and liquid bulk -- growing 1.5 percent in the first half of the year to 38 million tons.
Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.