Port Esbjerg handled more cargo than expected during an unpredictable 2020

There was Covid-19 and there was Brexit, but the activity level at Port Esbjerg in 2020 still ended largely in line with the year before. The cargo turnover decreased by only 2.3 per cent. “We are pleased with our performance,” says Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen who expects a more quiet 2021 with an unchanged activity level, despite a dip in the shipping of wind components.

Port Esbjerg was prepared for the Brexit challenge as the calendar turned from 2019 to 2020, but at that time no one knew anything about a global pandemic.

Naturally, these two landmark events, and Covid-19 in particular, have had a definite impact at the port of Esbjerg.

“As the pandemic swept across Europe in the spring, we saw a complete halt in some areas,” says Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen.

For example, the import of cars stopped completely. In March, 5,765 cars arrived. In April, the number was close to zero.

“We could really feel the difference,” says Jul Pedersen.

Also in May, almost no cars arrived. But then in June, the number increased again to 5,285. In 2020, a total of 46,000 cars arrived at the harbour, a fall from 51,439 the year before.

Cargo also developed unevenly in other areas.

Fluid bulk products dropped, whereas sand, stone and gravel increased. The handling of general cargo almost doubled in 2020 compared with the previous year.

“Towards the end of the year, activity increased again and it was obvious that many were filling up their inventories in the UK ahead of Brexit. So we have really seen both ups and downs. But it ended better than we could have hoped for along the way,” says Jul Pedersen.

In 2020, the number of ships calling at Esbjerg was 5,379 compared to 5,696 in 2019, which equates to a drop of 5.6 per cent. Generally, the levels were retained for most types of vessels, and the decrease in the number of port calls may partly be seen as a consequence of the lower levels of activity around the Danish oil and gas fields.

There was Covid-19 and there was Brexit, but the cargo turnover decreased by only 2.3 per cent. Port Esbjerg expects the activity level for cargo in 2021 to be in line with 2020.
 

Trailers

The number of trailers handled ended at 84,830, or 4 per cent less than the year before. But the crisis also brought new routes to the port of Esbjerg.

“Uncertainty also creates opportunities. We had new routes to Spain, Portugal and Ireland. That is very exciting. Due to the uncertainty in light of Brexit, businesses were looking for new markets, and new doors were opened during the crisis as well,” says Jul Pedersen.

The new routes contributed to reducing the fall in the number of containers.

The total turnover for 2020 of RoRo cargo came out at 1,661 thousand tonnes, which is 4.0 per cent less than the same figure for 2019.

In 2020, a total of 46,000 cars arrived at the harbour, a fall from 51,439 the year before, and the number of trailers handled ended at 4 per cent less than the year before. Also, wind activity was at the low end compared to the recent years, but still the largest volume shipped from any harbour in Europe.
 

Constant wind

Offshore wind projects progressed without delays throughout 2020. Apart from Horns Rev 3, the Borssele 1+2 projects were actually installed faster than expected. A volume of 1.02 GW was shipped, which is at the low end of wind activity in recent years, but still the largest volume shipped from any harbour in Europe.

“From the time the decision is made, it takes eight years to build a wind farm. There was a period when not that many projects were initiated. Back in 2015, the interest in wind energy was not that great as oil prices were low. We are starting to see the effect of that now,” says Jul Pedersen.

From 2023, the activity level will start to increase again. There is significant tender activity for areas and port-related activities in relation to offshore wind farms that will be installed from 2023 and onwards. These include tenders for the Danish projects Vesterhav Syd and Vesterhav Nord, but also German projects are under way.

2021 in line with 2020

Port Esbjerg expects the activity level for cargo to be in line with 2020.

“We believe that cargo will be stable. The DFDS routes to the UK should generate more traffic, and we hope to get some larger vessels to the port as well. Larger vessels are already operating on the Immingham route,” says Jul Pedersen.

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