A record year. An apt description of Spanish port activity last year that saw close to 545 million tons (544,957,382) pass through its ports in 2017, up from 6.96% in 2016.
These figures were released by the State Port Authority, which underlined an 8.1% increase (202.3 million tons) in imports of the 46 port facilities of general interest that it coordinates as well as a 7.4% increase in exports (96.7 million tons). It also highlighted the fact that about 85% of imports and 60% of exports in Spain are made by sea, as well as the fact that a total of 156,046 vessels passed through our ports, representing a 3% increase.
The increased traffic in Spanish ports is also reflected when compared with other European ports. Rotterdam (The Netherlands), which is the main port of the old continent, grew by 1.3%; Antwerp (Belgium), the second most important, increased by 4.4%; while Hamburg (Germany), in third place, saw a drop of -1.2%, and Zeebrugge (Belgium), the fourth in Europe, also saw a drop of -1.8 per cent. In terms of Spain, of particular note were the ports of Algeciras (101.5 million tons), Valencia (73.5) and Barcelona (61.4).
The type of freight transported at Spanish ports in 2017 were general freight, which represented 47.5% of the total transported (a total of 252.5 million tons), representing an increase of 7%. The second major group of goods were bulk liquids, representing 33.5% of the total transported, (more than 178.5 million tons) and an increase of 6.6%. In third place was solid bulk, which represents 19% of the total (more than 101 million tons) and an increase of 9.8%.
The Spanish Ports Authority highlighted in its 2017 analysis that port facilities remained a good option for the transport of goods destined for third countries. This is reflected in the nearly 137 million tons transported, an increase of 12%, and 25% of the total, i.e. one out of every 4 tons passing through Spanish ports is in transit.
Furthermore, ro-ro traffic has grown by 6.8%, exceeding 57 million tons. According to this agency answering to the Ministry of Public Works, this traffic represents an extensive range of logistical activities that impact very positively on inter-modality and the generation of employment associated with port traffic. This brings us to our work at Bilogistik, a versatile transport company, with experience in the handling of all kinds of goods, from one port to another.
And according to the information provided in 2017 on the transport of goods, containers, the most widespread way to transport general freight by sea, reached 15.9 million TEUs, representing a 5% increase. 53.3% (8.49 million TEUs) of these were in transit.
And what about this year? According to the State Ports Authority, supported by the provisional figures from January, freight traffic is still rising compared the figures from the close of 2017. Thus, the data show a growth of 10% more than last year in terms of total freight traffic, to over 46.2 million tons. Most of this rise is associated with both solid (+16,7%) and liquid (+11,7%) bulk, and general goods (+6.8%).
In fact, if this rate of growth continues, it will beat forecasts made by the port authorities that 2018 could close with a total traffic close to 550 million tons.
Referring to the future, President of the State Ports Authority, José Llorca stated in the Jornada de Pensamiento Naval: “Port activity is one of the most relevant sectors that may experience blue growth. So much so, that it is difficult to engage in economic activity in the marine sector without taking into account the role played by ports”.
According to Llorca, ports currently generate approximately 8.7% of GDP and an employment rate of 1.23%. The port system is also able to transport between 520 and 530 million tons of freight, as well as more than 30 million passengers, making it hugely capable of future growth. He also indicated the need to promote connectivity and take advantage of the port infrastructure for the new business approach that would result in the revitalization of the sector.