Despite the corona and nitrogen crises, the annual figures of Groningen Seaports developed well in 2020. Excellent results were achieved in this special year when it came to allocating land to companies. A total land allocation of almost 100 hectares helped to ensure that Groningen Seaports had a good financial year, with a turnover of approximately 72 million euros and a forecast (pre-tax) profit of approximately 17 million euros.
Of the almost 100 hectares, approximately 63 hectares of land have now been allocated to new and existing companies. “We are proud of the fact that several companies in Delfzijl and Eemshaven have decided to expand. That confirms the excellent business climate that we offer here. The course set out in the 2012 Green Port Vision is beginning to bear fruit: we are seeing a sharp rise in demand for the sustainably manufactured products of the chemical industry in Delfzijl,” says Groningen Seaports CEO Cas König.
The remaining hectares were allocated for the development of solar and wind farms in Eemshaven and Delfzijl. König: “We are seeing a rise in demand for renewable energy in our own industry, as well as in households. It is therefore imperative for employment and the greening of the industry that we invest in renewable energy.” To retain control of the local provision of this sustainable energy, Groningen Seaports also actively participates in these solar and wind farms.
Transhipment figures in 2020 were lower than in 2019, stopping at just over 10 million tonnes. Causes of the slight fall include a one-off transhipment of materials for the dike remediation project a year earlier and a shift in the raw material mix for the energy companies.
Despite the far-reaching social consequences of the corona virus, both ports and industry remained operational, and companies in Delfzijl and Eemshaven continued to work as hard as ever. “That is impressive to say the least. Although many of these companies are in key sectors themselves or are suppliers to that sector, continuing to produce in a world turned upside down was no easy task. We are pleased to note that the companies in our ports are flexible, creative and able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. This also showed once again that in a crisis such as this we cannot do without the industry in our area. Electricity and chemical products remained in high demand. The presence of good logistics connections and the need for fast internet and sufficient data storage capacity also proved to be of great importance. Unfortunately, this does not alter the fact that there were also companies in our industrial areas that directly felt and continue to feel the effects of the first and second waves of corona in their results”, says König.
The nitrogen crisis hit Groningen Seaports harder than the corona crisis. Despite the willingness of the province of Groningen to find a solution for the industry, the end of the nitrogen crisis is not yet in sight, according to König. “Companies are showing plenty of interest in locating in Eemshaven or Delfzijl in connection with the green products and utilities, but the lack of clarity surrounding permits is causing them to postpone investments. There are currently 2.9 billion euros worth of investments on the table in our area. These investments could also yield 1300 direct jobs. Virtually all these projects will make our industry greener. That is why we are eagerly awaiting a solution, such as a national nitrogen bank where you can buy nitrogen rights. We need that because we have a lot of companies that want to get started and need a little nitrogen space to do that.”
Despite the corona and nitrogen crises, Groningen Seaports decided last summer to invest 25 million euros ‘up front’ in the Heveskes industrial site in Delfzijl. König: “We are deliberately using the one-off income from land sales in these uncertain times for investment in areas such as public infrastructure and utilities. These investments are needed to have our sites ready when the market is. This investment in the Heveskes area is a boost for employment, energy transition in general and sustainable economic activities in Delfzijl in particular.”
Last year Groningen Seaports continued on its course towards a hydrogen economy. In February, a consortium of Shell, Gasunie and Groningen Seaports called NortH2 announced its intention to develop Europe’s biggest green hydrogen project. König: “This is a large-scale and ambitious project to eventually realise 10 gigawatts of offshore wind farms for the production of green hydrogen and represents a major step for the energy transition in the Northern Netherlands.” The project is to make our province the heart of the European hydrogen economy after the natural gas era. The arrival of Equinor of Norway and RWE of Germany later in the year gave the project international appeal.
A start was made in Eemshaven with the construction of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, the English Hornsea Two comprising 165 wind turbines. The transport and installation of the underwater part (foundation piles + connecting pieces) will take place via Eemshaven. This further reinforced the leading role that this port has acquired in the field of construction and maintenance of offshore wind turbines in recent years. Other favourable developments included the completion of the Eemshaven-Midden high-voltage substation (especially for solar and wind energy), the start of the construction of the new Eemshaven-Vierverlaten high-voltage line, the opening of the brand-new circular steel factory PMC in Delfzijl by King Willem-Alexander, the opening of the largest solar dike in the Netherlands and the establishment of the Offshore Wind Innovation Centre (OWIC), in which Groningen Seaports is actively involved.
Over the coming years Groningen Seaports will continue to promote green growth in the region, focusing on biobased chemistry, energy/data and the circular industry. Groningen Seaports also expects a number of new companies to establish themselves in Delfzijl and Eemshaven in 2021. “That will also lead to an increase in inland shipping. We will also be continuing the joint sustainability project with the business community to enable inland navigation vessels to run on hydrogen. This includes the development of a hydrogen bunkering station for ships. The development in the offshore wind industry is also important to us. We are therefore facing plenty of challenges apart from the crises. We have already achieved a great deal, and we see even more big opportunities and ways to become the Dutch hub for sustainable energy”, concludes König.