Despite geopolitical unrest and economic slowdown with inflation and rising interest rates, the volumes increased in most cargo segments in the Port of Gothenburg in 2023. The container segment stands out the most, with 2023 marking the best year in the port’s 403-year history. This is according to the cargo volume summary for 2023 provided by the Gothenburg Port Authority.
In total, 914,000 containers (TEUs*) were handled in the Port of Gothenburg in 2023. This marks a growth of 3% compared to the previous year and 16,000 more containers than the port’s previous all-time high in 2012. Currently, the Port of Gothenburg handles 57% of the container traffic in Sweden, with terminal operator APM Terminals managing the majority of the volumes.
The increase is explained by several factors. An important one is the continued strength of the Swedish basic industry, with the forestry industry at its core. Additionally, handling in the Port of Gothenburg has grown in relation to other ports, both in Sweden and internationally. Compared to other Swedish ports, Gothenburg has increased its market share from 53% to 57% in 2023**. During the same period, many of the largest European ports have lost 5–10% of their volumes.
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Primarily, it is export products that are increasing, while the import industry faces challenges. The shopping frenzy during the pandemic has ended, and Swedes held onto their wallets tighter during the past year. However, a turning point was noticeable during the last quarter of the year. During the first three quarters of the year, the decline in imports was around 20%, while the decline in the fourth quarter remained around 10%.
“In total, it is a fantastic result and a strong testament to the Port of Gothenburg’s role as the guarantor of Swedish industry’s access to the world. It is gratifying that Swedish export industry continues to stand strong and that we are now seeing a brightening on the import side. The port’s growing market share, both nationally and internationally, also indicates further strengthened confidence from shipping companies and cargo owners, which we are very proud and grateful for,” says Claes Sundmark, Vice President Sales & Marketing at the Gothenburg Port Authority.
Containers by Rail
Approximately 60% of the containers transported on land between the Port of Gothenburg and the Scandinavian hinterland go by rail. This is a figure that few other international major ports can match. However, decreased container imports combined with maintenance work on the country’s railway infrastructure and issues with the Swedish Transport Administration’s planning have led to a nine percent decline compared to the record level of 2022.
But a recovery was seen during the last quarter, linked to the aforementioned recovery of imported containers. In the end, 2023 became the second-best year ever for containers transported by rail to or from the Port of Gothenburg.
Roro stands for roll on/roll off and refers to trailers and other rolling cargo transported on high-frequency ships, both within and outside of Europe. Intra-European roro traffic decreased by 4% in 2023, and similar to the container segment, import volumes decreased while exports remained at essentially the same level as in 2022. The decline is also smaller than in many other Swedish and European ports.
“Considering the economic situation in Europe, the current global situation, and how ro/ro volumes turned out in other ports, this is a good result,” says Claes Sundmark.
The handling of new cars increased by 13% to 267,000 in 2023. Both imports and exports increased, and the port maintains its position as Sweden’s largest port for cars by a considerable margin.
In 2023, the port’s energy volumes decreased by 17% to 18.4 million tons compared to the previous year. Maintenance shutdowns at the two major refineries in the port, along with an oil price that did not favor storage, explain the decline.
The handling of conventional dry bulk vessels continues to increase. In 2023, 439,000 tons of bulk cargo were handled, which is an increase of 17%. It is primarily high-value bulk cargo such as cardboard and paper pulp that is increasing, with a new flow of paper pulp transshipment being a particularly strong contributor to the growth.
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Record in the cruise segment and increased ferry travel
Travel by ferry and cruise ships continue to increase after the pandemic. On the cruise side, the number of passengers increased by 45% in 2023. This meant 118,000 passengers, which is the highest annual figure ever in the Port of Gothenburg. In total, 81 cruise ships called at the port during the year, which is the same number as the record year of 2022. The number of passengers in ferry traffic increased by 7% to nearly 1.4 million passengers.
Source: Port of Gothenburg