Port of Antwerp shows resilience against slump in container volumes

Port of Antwerp shows resilience against slump in container volumes
Pharma products, e-commerce and health foods helped to maintain volumes

Container traffic increased by 0.4% at the Port of Antwerp in the first half of 2020, bucking the trend of reduced volumes at container ports since COVID-19 began affecting global trade.

At the Belgian hub, container volumes increased in the first quarter of the year, but the effects of cancelled sailings were felt from April onwards.

The number of calls made by vessels decreased, but this was compensated by a higher average volume per vessel and by additional calls on top of the normal sailing schedules.

Notable climbers in this special period were the transhipment of pharmaceutical products, e-commerce and health foods.

At the beginning of June, the port also welcomed the world’s newest largest container ship, the HMM Algeciras with a capacity of 23,964 teu.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of the Port of Antwerp, stated: “Port of Antwerp is a world port that follows the pace of the European and world economy. The impact of the shutdown of the global supply chain due to the coronavirus crisis has been felt from the second quarter onwards and will affect the total throughput of goods this year.

“The Port of Antwerp is holding up well in the Hamburg-Le Havre range because it is active in many sectors, it is not dependent on a single continent and because of its role as Europe’s largest integrated chemical cluster.”

Following discussions with the Antwerp port community about the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, the port authority decided to grant a postponement of payment for the shipping and inland navigation dues and for the domain concessions.

For the third quarter, while the Port of Antwerp is still expecting blank sailings, it is also seeing the first signs of recovery and an upturn in the European economy.

Annick De Ridder, port alderman, said: “As the Port of Antwerp, we are an important link in the chain between producers and consumers, and as such a perfect barometer for the global economy.

“Much will depend on how quickly industry is able to start up again and consumer confidence to return. As Antwerp port community, we remained 100% operational during this global crisis and our knowledge and experience are well documented as a valued trademark all over the world.”

Despite the resistance shown by the container sector, total throughput across all cargo segments at the Port of Antwerp fell by 4.9% in the first half of the year.

After a strong first quarter, the port experienced a decline in the transhipment of all flows of goods, with the exception of the container segment.

Conventional breakbulk volumes were down 29%, roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) throughput dropped 21.8%, dry bulk transhipment fell 13.1% and liquid bulk decreased by 7.5%.