Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Amsterdam Plots its Future as a Freight and Logistics Hub

Port and Airport Make it a Premier Multimodal Choice
Shipping News Feature

NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam is often seen as the ‘nearly man’ of European freight but taken overall the City’s cargo facilities prove that, far from being second to Rotterdam in terms of the versatility of its freight and logistics movements, the combined fortunes of Schiphol airport’s position as third largest cargo shifter coupled with the Amsterdam port’s fourth placed ranking, plus the speed of growth and increasing breadth of containerised and bulk goods throughput leave it right at the front of the Continent’s multimodal transhipment hubs.

The Port of Amsterdam always has an alternative agenda in that its motto is sustainable growth whilst leaving the environment untainted by its activities, a difficult goal but one the port authorities always emphasize is essential. Now, with the port targeting the energy market, Amsterdam port is ready to start unloading, storing and transhipping biomass. This sustainable energy feedstock is shipped onboard seagoing vessels arriving from countries such as Canada, the US and Brazil.

Last week a delegation from the American Port Erie, Pennsylvania visited Amsterdam looking for a way to import biomass products, principally wood pellets into mainland Europe. With the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation planning to insist on the use of biomass co-firing in coal-fired power stations, as has been laid down in the 2011 Energy Report the market for the product is set to boom. By 2020 Port of Amsterdam is expecting transhipment of approximately six million tonnes for the Northwest European market with biomass transhipment by market leaders such as IGMA, OBA and Maja Stuwadoors.

Meanwhile Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has announced growth of 0.8% in cargo handled for 2011 against the previous year. Over one and a half million tonnes of freight was processed in the year to December with monthly totals roughly equal through the year but a whole 20,000 tonnes more in April 2011 against the same month in 2010 due to the volcanic ash crisis made the difference. Highlights were North American imports (up 13.3% at 136,065 tonnes), exports to Central and South America (up 9.4% at 83.941 tonnes) and exports to the Middle East (108,770 tonnes, up 15.2%). Figures for Europe were also positive, but were distorted by the re-categorisation of Air Bridge as a European carrier mid-year.

Full freighter flights grew 2.1% year on year, to reach a total of 15,928 for the year. Assisted by newcomers Saudi, Centurion and Etihad, and with additional flights by Air Bridge, freighters carried a 58% share (882,412 tonnes) of all cargo through the airport – up 2.3% on 2010. But December saw a drop of 4.1% in freighter movements, resulting from the suspension of Jade’s 14 flights per week, and a number of ad hoc charters in 2010 which were not repeated. Schiphol Cargo Senior VP Enno Osinga commented:

“2011 began promisingly, but very soon revealed itself as a challenging year for the industry. We take some comfort from the fact that we have still managed to show growth over 2010, and that ours was the only positive result among Europe’s top 3 cargo gateways.

“It is also good to see that the gap between imports and exports is gradually closing, which is good news for our carriers and our forwarding community. But it’s clear that inbound traffic from the Far East is soft, and likely to remain so for a while. As the Far East is our largest market and accounts for some 40% of our total tonnages, even modest falls in its traffic are difficult to offset with growth in other markets.”

Photo: Shipping container ‘Delft Blue Box’ painted by artist Hugo Kaagman sponsored by the Port of Amsterdam as part of the Art on a Box series.