Rotterdam harbour saw record cargo volume numbers in 2015 boosted by low oil prices, as Europe's largest port seeks ways to move towards greener energy, its chief executive said Friday.
The sprawling port saw volumes climb by 4.9 percent from 445 million tonnes in 2014 to over 466 million tonnes last year on the back of rapidly-slumping oil prices, Allard Castelein said.
"The low oil prices translates into high margins at refineries. This means they are shipping in huge quantities of crude oil and that's what the port is profiting from," he told journalists at a press conference in Rotterdam.
Oil prices slumped to a fresh 12-year low on Friday, with prices in New York hitting $29.39 a barrel and Brent dropping to $29.45.
Crude oil products jumped by 8.1 percent to over 100 million tonnes last year, while oil products were up by 18 percent to over 80 million tonnes, Castelein said.
"Even the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, is using the port as a trans-shipment point," he added.
Rotterdam's container figures however fell by 1.1 percent, even though it did see increased trade with Britain.
London's stronger economy and land transport disruptions in the French port of Calais -- scene of an ongoing fight to stop migrants from sneaking onto lorries to illegally cross through the Channel Tunnel -- were the main drivers behind the boost in trade with Rotterdam.
Castelein stressed the port needed to search for additional future business as green energy such as wind and solar power begins to replace non-renewable resources such as coal and oil.
The port has striven to make its own activities more environment-friendly, he added.
"We see this as an opportunity, rather than a death blow. We think we're in an excellent position to take on the challenge to cut down on fossil energy and focus on durable energy," he said.
Rotterdam's port is also dealing with labour issues which saw workers down tools for the first time in 13 years last week to fight to keep hundreds of jobs set to be lost to automatisation.
The Dutch news reports said 700 workers -- out of a total workforce of around 3,600 -- had joined a 24-hour strike.
The unions claim some 800 jobs are under threat following the opening of new terminals at an extension to the Rotterdam port known as the Second Maasvlakte.
Castelein said talks with the unions continued and he was hoping for a resolution "soon," but declined to give any further details.
He added the port's full-year figures will be released in coming weeks.
Rotterdam is the world's seventh-largest port and the largest in the western hemisphere. Some 30,000 seagoing vessels and 110,000 inland vessels visit the port annually.