Freight volumes increase at the Port of Gothenburg despite the ongoing pandemic

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The logistics system remains under extreme pressure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has now entered its third year. Despite this, the Port of Gothenburg has weathered the storm well, reporting volume growth during the period and particularly during 2021. With a higher market share and its unique features and capabilities, the port has ensured that industry has continued access to the world.

Container shortages, bottlenecks, closures, and disruptions throughout the global logistics system have dominated discussions throughout the past year. But despite the ever-present challenges, volumes at the Port of Gothenburg increased in all dry cargo segments, including containers, ro-ro, and new cars.

“There are a number of interrelated factors that have resulted in volume upturn. The port provided proof of its resilience during 2020, and our standing in the market improved considerably in 2021. Our evenly balanced import and export volumes alleviated the impact of container shortages, putting us in a better position than many other ports. We also had the added benefit of more services to new and important destinations,” said Elvir Dzanic, Gothenburg Port Authority chief executive.

In contrast to Europe and the rest of the world, Sweden and Gothenburg managed to avoid abrupt pandemic-induced closures. Ample terminal space and a solid infrastructure gave the port the leeway to counteract the congestion that was becoming increasingly apparent at ports in other countries.

All-time high for rail services The port’s rail system, Railport Scandinavia, continues to grow in terms of range and volume. In 2021, 458,000 TEUs (20-foot containers) were transported between the port and inland destinations – the highest figure ever. During the year, several new rail shuttles were introduced and the number of departures and volumes on existing shuttle routes increased. Some 60% of container freight passing through the port is transported by rail, offering significant climate benefits and mitigating the impact of the shortage of truck drivers.

Increase in ro-ro, cars, and bulk
The port’s intra-European ro-ro traffic – the transport of wheeled cargo to and from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, and the central European hubs of Ghent and Zeebrugge in Belgium – rose by 10% during the year. All markets have reported positive growth.

The car segment had its ups and downs in 2021 with the shortage of semiconductors and components continuing to cause disruptions in car production and ultimately in the number of cars handled at the port. Even so, the overall picture during the year was one of recovery from a weak 2020. The increase of 9% can be compared with car sales in the EU, which according to reports from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association fell by 2.4% during the past year.

Large volumes of sand were imported via the Port of Gothenburg in 2021, contributing to the 7% increase in dry bulk. Some 250,000 tonnes of dry bulk were handled during the year.

Downturn in energy products – upturn in passenger numbers
The demand for energy products fluctuated during the year due to the pandemic – a pattern that was also reflected globally. Volumes at the port increased during the third quarter although full-year volumes were down 11%.

Passenger numbers were up 30% – a colossal recovery compared with the figures in 2020 following the outbreak of the pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions. However, passenger figures are still far short of pre-pandemic levels. The cruise segment experienced similar problems in 2020 but bounced back strongly in 2021.

The future
The logistics system is still under considerable pressure and continues to be susceptible to disruptions resulting from the pandemic. The figures for the third and fourth quarters indicate a strong recovery in terms of volume and there are no signs of a slowdown in the immediate future. For the next six months at least few analysts foresee a falloff in either volumes or freight prices.

Rapid changes can have monumental consequences. China reacted quickly and forcefully to minor local Covid-19 outbreaks. The subsequent impact at major ports rapidly spread through the system. The Port of Gothenburg remains well equipped to meet the future.

“We are under an obligation to act as a guarantor to industry, ensuring it has access to the world. We have demonstrated during the pandemic that we are able to meet this challenge. Looking back, I feel we did most things right and we are well-positioned moving forward. We are firmly convinced that our long-term success in becoming the most competitive port in the world will be based on climate efficiency and digitalisation. These are areas in which we are investing heavily and working closely with the port’s customers and partners we are making considerable headway,” said Elvir Dzanic.

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