End-of-year figures for total traffic stand at of 31.2 million tonnes (+5.5%), up 1.6 million tonnes on 2020 figures. Contributory factors to this include the general recovery of goods during the second half of the year, and especially in the last quarter; an 18% increase in dry cargo, with growth of one million tonnes in both bulk solids and general cargo; and the increase in the number of vessels entering the port.
The port of Bilbao is, therefore, on the road to recovery, and has partly regained the traffic lost in 2020 due to the pandemic and the stevedoring conflict, with figures on a par with the State Ports average. The Port Authority is confident that this trend will continue in the current financial year and that 2023 will see a return to 2019 levels of traffic.
In terms of cargo type, all forms show a considerable upturn in 2021 compared to the previous year. The only exception to this trend is bulk liquids (down by 2%), which has been hit by the decrease in LNG traffic and by low production at the Petronor refinery during the first three quarters of the year. It should be taken into account that 57% of traffic is liquid, so this has a significant impact on total traffic figures.
Growth has been particularly noticeable in bulk solids, which closed the year up 27%. General cargo has increased by 13.5% compared to 2020, with conventional general cargo increasing by 23% and containerised cargo by 9%. For its part, the number of TEUs (international unit equivalent to a 20-foot container) rose by 11%.
Ro-Ro freight continues on an upward trend (up 25% in tonnes and 30% in trucks, FTL or semi-trailers, counted as ITU), even surpassing 2019 levels (6.5% increase in tonnes and 17.5% in trucks).
The recovery can also be seen in the number of vessels moving through the port, with 2,669 calls, 331 more and 7% up on 2020 figures. The average size of the vessels is smaller due to the decrease in the number of calls of crude oil and gas carriers.
Port and railway traffic has also increased. In 2021, 4,358 trains entered or left the port facilities, 15% up on the previous year’s figures. 23% of container traffic now uses the rail service.
In terms of passengers, the port of Bilbao received 73,853 people, 62% more than in the previous year, thanks to ferry activity with the United Kingdom and Ireland and a certain recovery in cruise ship activity. In total, 149 ferry calls were made and 14 by cruise ships. In 2022, a considerable increase in the number of tourists arriving by sea to the Basque Country is expected. There are already 79 requests for cruise calls in 2022 and, at the end of March, the Salamanca cargo and passenger ferry will start operating, replacing the Cap Finistère on its Bilbao-Portsmouth route and doubling its capacity. This ferry will also become the first regular service LNG-powered vessel in the port of Bilbao.
With regard to the main markets, traffic with Russia has increased by 54% to 5.5 million tonnes, mainly due to the increase in imports of crude oil and diesel oil. Russia continues to be the leading market in terms of total traffic.
Furthermore, the port of Bilbao is once again the main entry and exit point for trade between Spain and the United Kingdom and Ireland, handling 25% of this shipping. Traffic with the United Kingdom has risen by 4.5% to more than 2.8 million tonnes, and with Ireland by 47% to 830,000 tonnes.