May 21 ------ Following a period of unprecedented volatility in the container shipping sector due to the COVID-19 impact, Europe’s largest port, the Port of Rotterdam is seeing signs of recovery. The port’s data shows that on May 13, the port recorded ship calls comparable to the same day 2019, although a storm may have contributed to some vessels sheltering at the port on that day, the port authority informed. “We are now operating at pre-COVID-19 levels, although the container volumes are lower because of blank sailings, we are ready for when the markets recover,” Hans Nagtegaal, Head of Containers, Port of Rotterdam, said.
The port also announced that it has reduced the frequency of meetings for the COVID-19 port consultation committee to once a week from daily meetings. However, the committee plans to continue to carefully monitor the situation and issue reports. The decision was made following a period of stability in terms of the impact the virus had on operations at the port and in the region. The port authority said last week that ‘everything was under control’ and that ‘continuity was guaranteed in the terminals as well as in the business sector. ‘
“In view of the economic significance of the port, it goes without saying that ship handling has been designated by the Dutch government as a vital process, both for the Netherlands and for consumers and producers in the European hinterland. Shippers, shipping companies, manufacturing industry, consumers: everyone counts on Rotterdam,” Allard Castelein, President and CEO, Port of Rotterdam Authority said. Castelein explained earlier that the port was in talks with both the Dutch government and the European authorities to make sure the logistical chain and cargo handling continue uninterrupted. “Freight transshipment and production will continue unabated. The Harbor Master’s Division ensures safety and order on the water. The port continues to operate and is operational 24/7.”
Cruiseport Rotterdam has been doing its fair share in facilitating the repatriation of cruise crews, who have been considerably impacted by the ongoing pandemic. It is estimated that over 100,000 crew members still remain stuck at sea as arrangements for their signoff are still being determined. The port welcomed MS Norwegian Star at the Holland Amerikakade, Cruiseport Rotterdam on May 18. The vessel had approximately 200 mainly European and Dutch crew members on board, who will be going home. “The crew is being collected and escorted to their transit or final destination. The operation is taking place at the request of authorities and in accordance with the strict measures that are currently in place,” the port said in an announcement. The ship was scheduled to leave the port on May 20.
Last week, the port hosted three cruise ships to repatriate crew members of the Holland America Line (HAL), Seabourn and Princess Cruises. The ships included Sky Princess carrying some 100 crew members who needed to be repatriated, Nieuw Statendam with 100 crew members on board, and Seabourn Ovation carrying around 150 crew members for repatriation. “The Port Authority considers it important that crew members can be repatriated and is pleased to be able to cooperate in this operation,’” Harbor Master René de Vries said.