Thousands of containers destined for Russia stuck in Rotterdam


Over 7,000 shipping containers bound for Russia are currently stuck at the Port of Rotterdam due to the European sanctions. They are taking up valuable space, and some of them have been there for several weeks. It is still unclear what should be done with the containers – and their cargo – if the sanctions are not lifted soon. According to the latest figures from the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the sanctions also had a slightly negative impact on transhipment activities at the port in the first quarter of this year.

Some of the containers in the Port of Rotterdam have actually been released by the customs office and could in theory continue on their journey to Russia. However, most Western shipping companies are unwilling to accept them, reports the Dutch financial newspaper FD. Other containers are no longer permitted to be shipped to Russia, either because the cargo is destined for people on the sanctions list or because the goods themselves are affected by sanctions.

Whether any of the containers will actually leave the port in the coming weeks depends on multiple factors. One factor is the contract between the exporters and the Russian buyers. For example, it is likely that much of the cargo is owned by Russian importers who have already paid the exporters. In that case, if the cargo has been released by customs, the exporter can look for another buyer and subsequently compensate the importer.

Needless to say, it is a different story if the cargo is affected by sanctions. If the Russian importers themselves are on the sanctions list, then selling the cargo to them is out of the question. In that case, the exporter can try to sell the goods elsewhere, but is not allowed to compensate the Russian buyer. If the sanctions only apply to the goods themselves, the exporter can try to annul the contract and make a deal with another buyer, providing that it does not violate the sanctions.

Fewer containers destined for Russia

The situation at the Port of Rotterdam is easing somewhat now that exporters have stopped sending goods to Russia because of the sanctions, so the flow of containers destined for that country has dried up. However, new EU sanctions are now in place which are also affecting imports from Russia, so this could once again lead to an increase in the number of containers getting stuck at the port.

The sanctions against Russia have slightly dented the freight throughput in the port in the first quarter of this year. The latest quarterly figures published by the Port of Rotterdam Authority show that, compared to last year, its total freight throughput fell by 1.5% to 113.6 million tonnes. Approximately 13% of the transhipment volumes are related to trade to and from Russia, amounting to 62 million tonnes on an annual basis.

War continues to affect freight volumes

According to CEO Allard Castelein, the Port Authority started the year “exceptionally well”, until the war in Ukraine broke out at the end of February: “Besides the fact that this conflict is a terrible humanitarian disaster, it has led to serious uncertainty in world trade and changes in logistical parameters. Although no one can predict how this will unfold, we expect that the developments in Ukraine and the seriously deteriorated relationship between Russia and many other countries will impact throughput volumes for the rest of the year as well.”

Source: FD