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Port of Antwerp holds its ground thanks to container throughput

Total throughput drops in August; recovery in sight

The total throughput of Port of Antwerp decreased by 5.1% in 2020 compared with the first 8 months of the previous year. The port has recorded a decline in the throughput of all goods flows, but is able to limit the damage thanks to container handling, which maintains the status quo. Compared to most other ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range, Port of Antwerp is holding up very well. Despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis on global production and logistics chains, and a pandemic-driven drop in demand, the port remains 100% operational.

Damage limitation

After a few less favourable months in May and June, container handling recorded stronger volumes in August. Thus, the container traffic remained almost unchanged on an annual basis, with -0.6% in TEU compared to last year. The number of blank sailings has been declining since August. Shipping companies are also organising extra runs outside the regular sailing schedules, which is partly compensating for the effect of the blank sailings.

For breakbulk, with steel as the main product, the impact of global trade issues has been felt since 2019 and the shutdown of some industries due to the coronavirus crisis has led to a sharp drop of 24% by 2020. After a few better months in June and July, there was another relapse in August. Conventional throughput of fruit did grow, but these volumes are rather limited. The total throughput of new vehicles decreased by 32%, and that of second-hand vehicles by 25%, in 2020 compared to last year.

For dry bulk, the picture is varied. Kaolin, scrap and fertilisers are relatively stable, while the other product groups, such as coal, are under pressure and in decline. In the liquid bulk segment, throughput has been falling by 7.2% in 2020. In the case of oil derivatives, we are seeing a recovery shift mainly on the discharge side, because the supply side always held up relatively well. Throughput of chemical products in the first eight months of this year was down 6.2% compared to the same period in 2019.

Further extension of payment terms

In order to continue supporting the shipping companies, inland navigation operators concessionaires at the port of Antwerp in these difficult circumstances, the Port Authority, in consultation with Alfaport Voka and MLSO, has decided to grant a further postponement of payment for domain concessions and for shipping and inland navigation dues.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp: “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. At the same time, we are seeing the first signs of recovery and both the global and European economies are picking up.”

Annick De Ridder, Port Alderman: “In times of crisis, Port of Antwerp has shown its world class time and again. Our port is showing its resilience and agility in this crisis and is holding up better than most other comparable ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range. The Port of Antwerp is a robust port that has been fulfilling its role as the largest engine of our economy for decades. This is thanks to the expertise and commitment of all employers and employees that make this port run. Day after day, they are making every effort to continue to ensure the efficient functioning of the port in complete safety.”

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