Economy & Politics

The port of Mertert has its back against the storm

Collateral victim of the pandemic, the multimodal site located on the banks of the Moselle saw its activity in 2020 fall by 11%. A phenomenon that affects all inland river activity.

Collateral victim of the pandemic, the multimodal site located on the banks of the Moselle saw its activity in 2020 fall by 11%. A phenomenon that affects all inland river activity.

(Jmh with Marco Meng) – Jürgen Helten’s first year will not have been a long quiet river. Arrived in January 2020, the director of Luxport saw the number of visitors to the port of Mertert fall by 11% compared to its 2019 level, i.e. a drop of 500,000 tonnes of goods. A phenomenon directly linked to the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the site’s main customer: ArcelorMittal.


01/30/2015 Luxembourg, Mertert, Luxport, Containerterminal Hafen Mertert photo Anouk Antony

Deprived of its main customer and supplier, ArcelorMittal, the port of Mertert has seen its activity plunge since the start of the covid-19 crisis. Its director is therefore crossing his fingers so that the steel industry returns to full activity.


In the first eleven months of 2020, exports of steel products fell 5.6%, while imports of scrap metal for the various sites of the global steel giant fell 26.9%. Figures which can be explained in particular, according to the Ministry of Mobility, by lower demand from the automotive industry, forced to reduce the sails for several months in 2020.

Same trend with regard to passenger traffic on inland waterways, which collapsed by “90%” last year, according to data published at the end of November by Adina Valean, European Commissioner for Transport. A reality that the European authorities intend to reverse by promoting investment in new boats, equipped with more environmentally friendly engines. In Luxembourg, the government finances up to 30% of ship modernizations.


Early signs indicate that the slowdown in steel demand could stabilize in 2020

After a few days of suspension, the steel group announced that it had relaunched its activities on its Luxembourg and French sites. But if the factories of Belval, Differdange and Rodange will regain a certain normality, those of Bissen and Dommeldange will continue to idle.


According to the plans of Brussels, the share of river transport should increase in importance in the future and represent, in countries such as Germany or Belgium, 40% of the goods transported. Against 7.5% currently in Luxembourg and 2.3% in France. Solution devised to relieve road congestion, the potential of this mode of transport could turn out to be colossal. Because the five main seaports of the EU – Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Marseille – are all connected to inland waterways, which leads the European Commission to consider that “the potential of this mode of transport is not fully exploited ”.

According to the European executive, the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of boats circulating on EU rivers are only a third of those of road transport. Not to mention energy efficiency since a single container ship can prevent the equivalent of 200 trucks. This is why the Ministry of Mobility believes that “an extension of the facilities in the port of Mertert” would allow a better, “safer and more ecological” operation of the waterways in Luxembourg.


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