Rotterdam handled 4 percent more ocean containers in the first quarter than a year ago, but an increasing number were empty because of the continuing economic downturn across Europe.
The increase, to 2.9 million 20-foot-equivalent units from 2.78 million TEUs in the first three months of 2012, restores traffic to the same level as in the first quarter of 2011.
The rise also consolidates Rotterdam’s position as Europe’s top container hub with third-ranked Antwerp today reporting first quarter traffic dipped 2.8 percent to 2.13 million TEUs. Second-ranked Hamburg, which has yet to report its first quarter figures, has suffered a sharp decline in imports from Asia, particularly China.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority said it expects the increase in empty containers to continue into the second quarter because of low European economic growth.
Rotterdam’s total throughput declined 1 percent to 109.1 million metric tons, largely because of an 11 percent drop in agribulk shipments and a 7 percent decrease in crude oil imports.
Roll-on, roll-off traffic was up 1.1 percent at 2.14 million metric tons, with the economic downturn in the U.K., Rotterdam’s biggest ro-ro market, continuing to depress trade.