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Port of Antwerp has a record first quarter despite pandemic and Brexit

Port of Antwerp has a record first quarter despite pandemic and Brexit

 The situation of the pandemic and the post-Brexit could suggest that the Port of Antwerp would be affected by the slowdown in its activity. It is not so.The total throughput of Port of Antwerp remained stable at 59,1 million metric tonnes compared with the same period last year. All goods flows except liquid bulk recorded growth. For the coming period, it remains to be seen what the impact will be of the incident in the Suez Canal. Port of Antwerp anticipates busy terminals where possible.

First quarter record equalled despite ongoing corona crisis

Container throughput grew by 0.6% (metric tonnes) and 2.3% (TEUs) in Q1 2021 compared with Q1 2020, which started strongly and then saw a downturn due to the initial effects of the pandemic in March 2020. January 2021 saw a continuation of the strong performance seen in autumn 2020, although a number of operational challenges hampered the operation of the container terminals. For example, there were long delays in arrivals of container ships as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The severe cold snap in February had an additional negative impact on container handling and the effects of this continued into March. The Suez Canal incident will cause further delays to container ship calls and operational challenges throughout Q2.

The breakbulk segment had its best quarter since Q2 2019. The throughput of iron and steel, the most important goods group in this segment, increased by 18.2% due to a peak in the supply of steel, which can be explained amongst others by the new import quotas that took effect on 1 April. The RoRo throughput remained stable compared to Q1 2020, both in new and used vehicles.

Dry bulk throughput increased by 6.7%. Apart from growth in the throughput of non-ferrous ores and scrap, this growth was found mainly in the throughput of fertilizers (+40.7%). The throughput of fertilizers within a single quarter is unprecedented in the last decade. Liquid bulk recorded a drop of 5%, mainly due to a sharp decline in the throughput of crude oil. Derivatives saw a slight decrease (-1%) compared with Q1 2020, while chemicals saw a modest increase of 4.4%.

Results Port of Antwerp Q1 2021

Analysis: Impact of the Suez Canal Incident

As a result of the incident in the Suez Canal, Port of Antwerp expects higher levels of traffic in the terminals in the coming weeks. Port of Antwerp is keeping its finger on the pulse with the shipping companies and the 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. We are also looking at how we can optimise storage capacity inland and make even greater use of inland navigation and rail. It is important to work closely with the entire chain to make the best possible use of the available capacity.

The Port of Antwerp is the second-largest port of Europe. It represents a major lifeline for the Belgian economy: more than 300 line services to over 800 destinations ensure global connectivity. The Port of Antwerp annually handles around 231 million tonnes of international maritime freight, and is home to Europe's largest integrated chemical cluster. The Port of Antwerp accounts, directly and indirectly, for a total of around 143.000 jobs and more than €20 billion added value. 

Analysis by experts : Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp and Annick De Ridder, Port Alderman

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."

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp declared

Despite the difficult circumstances in which we started 2021, we are able to show that the port is holding its own. This is testament to the resilience of our port and of all the employees who work at the port platform. They are still ensuring that everything keeps running and that the port of Antwerp can continue to play its crucial role in provisioning our country and our economy."

Annick De Ridder, Port Alderman added

Last action of this transport company is the merger with Zeebrugge

At the end of this year, The two Belgian ports : Antwerp and Zeebrugge will merge their activity in order to be more competitive.

The shared position of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge within the global supply chain will receive a significant boost. The merged port will become the most important container port 157 million tonnes by year one of the largest break bulk ports and the largest port for the throughput of vehicles in Europe. Furthermore, the port will account for more than 15% of Europe’s liquid natural gas transited and it will of course remain Europe's most important chemical hub. Finally, it will be the largest port for cruise ships in the Benelux. With a total throughput of 278 million tonnes per year, the unified port will be able to consolidate its leading position in the world.

Unifying a port is more than a story of tonnes and volumes. The ambition is to become the world's first port that reconciles economy, people and climate. The unification project is all about creating added value for the surrounding areas of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, for customers and stakeholders, as well as for the rest of Flanders. As part of a joint plan, the two ports have defined three strategic priorities – sustainable growth, resilience and leadership in the energy and digital transition.

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