Higher container volumes at the Port of Gothenburg – despite Covid-19

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Global logistics in 2020 was marked indelibly by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in considerable fluctuations in demand for industrial products and transport. At the Port of Gothenburg, container volumes for the year showed no sign of being affected by Covid-19. On the contrary, volumes have increased.

“2020 posed major challenges for everyone in and around the Port of Gothenburg and our flexibility and capacity to adapt have been put to the test. In the light of the prevailing conditions and in hindsight we did almost everything right. Each and every one of the terminal operators at the port should be congratulated,” said Elvir Dzanic, Gothenburg Port Authority chief executive.

As far back as 1 February measures were taken to keep the port open and free from disruption in these unprecedented times. The focus was on meeting the new conditions generated by the pandemic and to do so rapidly and effectively.

“In the short term, our attention was focused on operational aspects, ensuring that we continued to be an asset for industry as we navigated our way through this difficult process. This was achieved in part by assuring access for industry to empty containers in times of shortage in many parts of the world. We also made sure interim storage capacity was available, and we guaranteed full, uninterrupted functionality throughout the port,” said Elvir Dzanic.

Continued investment to promote profitability
The long-term focus during the year has been on not allowing the port’s development plans to lose momentum. The port has a multi-year investment programme, which during 2020 included key milestones in the fairway deepening project – Skandia Gateway – and the establishment of the new Arendal 2 terminal. The Svea Terminal, a new rail-linked transshipment terminal, was also brought into operation. During the latter half of the year the port embarked on a complete digital transformation with the aim of enhancing freight visibility.

“We strengthened our balance sheet during the year in various ways, including a reduction in future borrowing requirements. This has allowed us to continue investing in climate initiatives, digitalisation, and other areas that are of value to the customer. These will in the future ensure freight can be transported even more efficiently and with greater consideration given to the environment,” said Elvir Dzanic.

Container volumes on the increase
The Port of Gothenburg is the largest port in the Nordic region. Some 30 per cent of Swedish foreign trade passes through the port, including half of all container traffic. And it was the container segment that proved most successful in 2020. Container volumes at the port rose by almost one per cent, which is in stark contrast to the rest of the Swedish market, which fell by two per cent according to the latest available statistics.

Other segments more challenging
In other segments at the port, Covid-19 has had a more wide-reaching impact. The hardest hit was passenger traffic. Cruise operations were shut down almost immediately, which had obvious repercussions at the Port of Gothenburg. Ferry traffic was impacted significantly by travel restrictions, resulting in a substantial fall in passenger numbers.

In the energy segment, the year got off to a strong start with high volumes. The low price of crude oil during the spring meant that production could be increased, and stocks were replenished. The second half of the year was marked by a fall in demand for aviation fuel and other transport fuels as a result of Covid-19.

New car sales in Sweden fell by 18 per cent during the year and the global market generally followed the same pattern. Volumes at the Port of Gothenburg have declined by 15 per cent over the past 12 months, the biggest contributing factor being a production stoppage at Volvo Cars in the spring.

Although intra-European ro-ro traffic was affected by the pandemic, it entered 2021 optimistically following an upturn of 7 per cent in Q4 2020.

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