Port of Gothenburg 2017 container volume plunges 19% on labour issues

The key Swedish Port of Gothenburg saw its worst year ever for container volumes in 2017 due to prolonged labour issues, with the number of boxes moved plunging 19% to 644,000 teu from 798,000 teu in the previous corresponding period.

The port said in a press release that strong performances in other sectors however enabled the total freight volume to remain stable at just over 40m tonnes, basically flat from the year before.

Expressing dismay and placing much of the blame on the long-running labour dispute between the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union and the terminal operator APM Terminals Gothenburg, Port of Gothenburg ce Magnus Kårestedt  said: “This is a downturn that we have never been close to at any point in the history of the port, and it took place in a year when container trade globally had increased. It is difficult to put into words the seriousness of the situation.”

More than 70% of Swedish international trade is sea borne and at Scandinavia’s largest port, trade with countries outside Europe relies on container vessels.

A contract dispute between APM Terminals Gothenburg and the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union dragged on a the port for more than a year and a half.

Kårestedt explained: “We had hoped for a recovery towards the end of the year in the absence of any industrial action since last summer. But this was not the case. The message from the freight owners is loud and clear – the constant threat of industrial action hanging over the container terminal means they will not be returning without a long-term solution that will ensure reliable freight handling over time.”

In its new schedules announced in January cont-ro line ACL converted its Gothenburg service from a direct call to a dedicated feeder, the first time it has dropped a direct call there in 50 years.

The new service is set to set start in mid-January and ACL said on its website that “the new service will result in a dramatic reliability improvement to what ACL has been offering Swedish customers during the past 12 months. ACL will operate this new service for six months then review it afterward”.

Port of Gothenburg said however that despite low container volumes, overall volumes remained on a par with 2016 as strong car exports and a rise in trailerised freight compensated for the drop in containerized freight.

“This can be attributed largely to the record number of cars that have been shipped via the port, coupled with solid figures at our ro-ro terminals*,” said Kårestedt.

During 2017, 295,000 new cars passed through the port – a rise of 20% compared with the previous year, and the highest figure since the financial crisis of 2008. This upturn also makes the Port of Gothenburg the largest vehicle handling port in Sweden. A strong underlying factor is the continued export success of Volvo cars.

Ro-ro freight also rose for the third year in succession. 593,000 ro-ro units were transported – up 10% on 2016.

Posted 16 January 2018

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Vincent Wee

Asia Editor, Seatrade Maritime News

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