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Dry bulk up 4.4% at Bilbao as port prepares major expansion

Dry bulk up 4.4% at Bilbao as port prepares major expansion

(Posted on 14/02/24)

End-of-year traffic figures for 2023 for the Port of Bilbao totalled 32.8 million tonnes, up 0.11% on 2022 figures and attributable mainly to bulk solids and liquids.

This increase has been hindered by an exceptionally complicated month of December due to bad weather, which has caused delays in the arrival of vessels. Specifically, more than half a million tonnes and 21 port calls were lost during the month. On 1 and 2 January alone, thirteen vessels entered the port that were due to have berthed in December. If it weren't for these delays, the end-of-year figure would have been 1.7%.

Despite this setback, the Port of Bilbao has benefited from its multi-purpose nature, from its specialisation in handling all types of goods regardless of their nature, volume, weight or complexity. As a result, figures for total traffic are 3.3% higher than the average for State Ports, with results down in eight of the twelve main ports. Likewise, figures for container traffic (0.9% down on the previous year) are better than the average for the ports of the Spanish port system (5.5% down on the previous year).

It is important to note that the Port of Bilbao, unlike other major ports, is not a port of transit. Bilbao ranks third in exports with 8.3 million tonnes, behind only Valencia and Barcelona, and ahead of Cartagena and Algeciras. It is also third in terms of imports with 21.3 million, behind Cartagena and Tarragona, and ahead of Barcelona and Valencia. These figures confirm its importance for the economy of its hinterland, and its strength as a logistical-industrial port. In this sense, 38% of the port surface area under concession is used by industrial companies, which manufacture or transform materials dockside into end products, mainly in the energy and wind energy sectors.

In addition to being a port with the capacity and experience to handle all types of traffic, where transport, services, logistics and industry go hand in hand, the Port Authority's commercial policy, also at the service of its hinterland, gives priority to traffic of high strategic value, even if it adds up to fewer tonnes, such as project cargoes, among which wind power components feature prominently. In 2023, 3,600 special transport consignments entered the port, an average of ten a day.

In terms of cargo type, bulk solids are up 4.4%, with petroleum coke exports and imports of cereals and their flours of particular relevance. Figures for bulk liquids, despite the fall in production at the Petronor refinery due to its temporary technical shutdown, are up 1%.

Figures for general cargo fell by almost 4%. Within conventional cargo, figures for machinery and construction materials are up, whilst the best performing containerised goods are also construction materials. Despite a 3% fall overall, these figures also outperform the average for the state port system, which fell by almost 5%.

In absolute terms, the best performing cargo types were diesel oil, cereals, construction materials, biofuels, soya beans and animal feed and fodder. On the other hand, stand-out negative figures were recorded for crude oil, fuel oil, chemical products, beverages, cement and clinker, and paper and pulp.

Total investment made by the Port Authority during 2023 amounted to EUR 18.7 million. Foremost among this investment has been the extension of Dock AZ1 (EUR 4.3 million), the filling at the central breakwater (EUR 3.15 million), the reinforcement of the bridge structure on the N644 at the Iberdrola intake site (EUR 2.2 million), Port-Town relations (EUR 1.9 million) and the vacuum sewerage network in the Outer Abra (EUR 1.78 million, of the EUR 20 million investment scheduled up to 2025).

The investment forecast for 2024 is EUR 77.8 million, a high figure due, amongst other things, to the start of the second phase of the central breakwater which will provide 30 new hectares of space in a port with a high degree of occupation and great demand for land. The full development and use of the Outer Abra will thus enter its final phase. The works are expected to be put out to tender at Easter, once the project has been approved by the Council of Ministers, for an amount of EUR 54.4 million and a completion period of 26 months. The contract could be awarded in the summer and works could potentially begin in the last quarter of the year.

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