Congestion hits Rotterdam terminal

Europe’s busiest box port, Rotterdam, is facing weeks of congestion as one of its main terminals completes an upgrade and the impact of out-of-schedule vessel calls takes its toll.

ECT Delta Terminal is adding five new quay cranes, automated guided vehicles and automated stacking cranes.

But as a result, the south side of the Delta Terminal is out of action while the new cranes are installed.

“To improve the performance at the ECT Delta Terminal in the short and longer term, a large investment programme is being carried out,” an ECT spokesman said.

“This month, the first quay cranes will be operational and the quay will then be available again.

“We are doing everything we can to solve problems as quickly as possible, and expect to see structural improvements within a reasonable period.”

The problems created by the crane installation are said to have been compounded by deepsea ships arriving out-of-window during the last few months.

“Of course, we are in a position to accommodate fluctuations to some extent, but the current situation is exceptional. At the moment we maximise the use of our capacity by transferring ships to other ECT terminals. Nevertheless, we have a limited influence on the sailing schedules of our clients,” the spokesman said.

German shortsea carrier OPDR said it had been experiencing congestion problems since mid-April and delays had been up to 48 hours.

It warned customers that it may have to issue a surcharge.

“As a consequence [of the congestion] and in order to limit the damage to all our clients not shipping via Delta, we reserve the right to omit the Delta terminals on short notice in order to maintain our schedules and to apply a Delta congestion surcharge (if necessary),” it said.

Another source said congestion caused by the late arrival of vessels was not confined to Rotterdam, with Hamburg also suffering from the same problem.