Buoyant container throughput rates helped to limit the overall decline in volumes at the Port of Antwerp last year, with other cargo segments suffering due to the pandemic and trade tensions.
Despite a year dominated by the coronavirus with several difficult months and cancelled sailings, container throughput exceeded the 12m teu for the first time at the Belgian hub, with growth of 1%.
Thanks to this record in the container segment, the port held up better than most other ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range in 2020.
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of the Port of Antwerp, said: “We were caught up in a storm in 2020, but we stayed upright. The port has even set another record in container throughput. This enabled us to limit the damage due to losses in other segments and to present better figures than other ports.
“This once again confirms the importance of the container segment and the need to expand the capacity. It will not be smooth sailing in 2021 nor will it be predictable, but we are stronger than before.”
Annick De Ridder, port alderman, stated: “Compared to most other ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range, we are holding our position very well with, moreover, a record in container throughput. The economic urgency for additional container capacity is thus more than ever demonstrated.”
However, overall cargo volumes fell by 3% to 231m tonnes. Both coronavirus and the increasing protectionism as a result of global trade tensions had a markedly negative impact on breakbulk goods flows in 2020, resulting in a 16% decrease.
The car sector also suffered with roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) volumes slipping 9% while throughput of new vehicles plummeted 22% and that of second-hand vehicles dropped 23%.
Dry bulk volumes decreased 17%, partly due to the growing supply of green energy and reduced demand for coal and ores from the steel sector. Meanwhile, liquid bulk fell by 4%, with crude oil throughput down 60% due to reduced refining activities.
Vendermeiren pointed out that despite the crisis, the port had made progress during 2020 in terms of energy transition, mobility and digitalization.
He noted: “I am convinced that our ambitious projects, such as the CO2 reduction project Antwerp@C, the hydrogen coalition, the digital encryption of containers with the “Certified Pick up” project, and the new development of the NextGen District on the old Opel site will really be major game changers within the next 10 years.”
De Ridder added: “In 2021, we will continue this momentum with our submitted relaunch projects such as the pipeline network that can be a key in the energy transition and attention for the railways.”