The Port of Antwerp has recorded a slight growth in container throughput in the first quarter of 2021 despite the impact of the ongoing coronavirus crisis and Brexit.
Container throughput grew 2% to 3.10m teu as January saw a continuation of the strong performance seen in autumn 2020, although a number of operational challenges hampered the operation of container terminals.
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp, said: “We have faced several disruptions in the global supply chain over the last year: the pandemic, Brexit, the Suez incident… in these challenging times, Port of Antwerp is proving its agility and resilience.
“The global spread over different shipping areas, the large storage capacity and the professionalism and efficiency of Antwerp’s port community are the basic ingredients of our success.”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused long delays in arrivals of container ships and the severe cold snap in February had an additional negative impact on container handling and the effects of this continued into March.
As a result of the Suez Canal incident, Port of Antwerp expects higher levels of traffic in its terminals in the coming weeks resulting in further delays to container ship calls and operational challenges throughout the second quarter.
The port has been working with shipping companies and container terminals to see where space can be created for containers.
For example, some terminals have already decided not to allow the arrival of containers for export at the terminal until a few days before they can be loaded.
Port of Antwerp is also looking at how it can optimise storage capacity inland and make even greater use of inland navigation and rail.
Annick De Ridder, port alderman, said: “Despite the difficult circumstances in which we started 2021, we are able to show the port is holding its own.
“This is a testament to the resilience of our port and of all the employees who work at the port platform. They are still ensuring everything keeps running and that the Port of Antwerp can continue to play its crucial role provisioning our country and out economy.”
The breakbulk segment had its best quarter since the second quarter of 2019 as the throughput of iron and steel, the most important goods group in this segment, increased by 18% due to a peak in the supply of steel.
The peak can be explained amongst others by the new import quotas that took effect on April 1.
Roll-on roll-off throughput remained stable compared to the same period last year in both new and used vehicles.
Dry bulk throughput increased by 7% year-on-year as, in addition to growth in the throughput of non-ferrous ores and scrap, the throughput of fertilizers was up 41%.
Liquid bulk, however, recorded a drop of 5% mainly due to a sharp decline in the throughput of crude oil.
Derivatives saw a slight decrease, down 1% compared to the first quarter of 2020, while chemicals saw a modest increase of 4%.