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24 May, 2023 10:00

Major EU ports post losses due to Russia sanctions

Cargo turnover in the bloc’s three largest hubs dropped significantly in the first quarter of the year, data shows
Major EU ports post losses due to Russia sanctions

Europe’s largest cargo ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Antwerp have reported a significant decrease in container volumes in the year to date, citing the sanctions-induced termination of Russian cargo transit as among the main reasons for the decline. Prior to 2022, about 70% of imports to Russia passed through the three ports, according to media reports citing shipping data.

The German port of Hamburg announced last week that cargo turnover in the first quarter of 2023 was down 10.2% year-on-year to 28.1 million tons, while container throughput had dropped 15.9%. According to Axel Mattern, head of marketing at Hamburg port, the figures reflect the “tough general economic situation” brought on by the halt in Russian shipments.

At the beginning of last year, Russia was still the Port of Hamburg’s fourth largest trading partner. Sanctions came into force [and] freight volumes to and from Russia are now missing from the general view,” Mattern stated. He added that the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in China, geopolitical tensions, high inflation, and declining consumer purchases have also had an impact.

Rotterdam in the Netherlands, which is the EU’s largest port, also posted a drop in shipments in January-March, with total cargo throughput down by 1.5% and container turnover down by 11.5% year-on-year. Port authorities recently warned that a recorded increase in the flow of containers from Asia will not compensate for the cessation of traffic with Russia.

Total throughput for the Belgian port of Antwerp-Bruges dropped by 4.5% in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, to 68.7 million metric tons. According to the port’s press-service, the reduction was caused by economic uncertainty and a global slowdown in demand for container shipping, as well as sanctions on Russia. The latter caused Russia-related traffic in the first three months of 2023 to decline by two-thirds compared to the same period last year, resulting in a 6.6% drop in container turnover.

Prior to sanctions, the EU’s ports were the main transportation routes for goods destined for Russia. Following the introduction of restrictions, the port of St. Petersburg, Russia’s primary gateway to Europe, saw an 85% year-on-year drop in container throughput as of the end of 2022, according to calculations by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

EU sanctions have banned Russian ships from entering European ports, as well as restricting the insurance of Russian cargoes and the delivery of an extensive list of products to Russia. This has forced transport carriers either to stop working with Russian cargoes, or to reroute shipments from Europe to ports in the Russian Far East, Türkiye, and Iran.

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