“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,” said Magnus Kårestedt, Port of Gothenburg chief executive.

The fall was attributed to the long-running labour dispute between the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union and the terminal operator APM Terminals Gothenburg, which partly impacted volumes in 2016, but the repercussions were shown as greater in 2017.

Magnus 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.”

Despite low container volumes, overall volumes at the Port of Gothenburg, the largest port in Scandinavia, remained on a par with 2016, which can be attributed to the record number of cars that have been shipped via the port and the solid figures at ro-ro terminals, according to Mr. Kårestedt.

Namely, during 2017, 295,000 new cars passed through the port – a rise of 20 per cent 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. 

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