To say that Antwerp is a container port is an understatement. Container traffic, the only type of cargo that has grown continuously since 2014, increased tonnage in the first six months of this year by 4.3% compared to 2020 and 3.9% compared to 2019. Most notably this year, with a growth of 5.1% to 6.2 million TEUs.
There is a very noticeable increase in traditional general cargo – everything that is not placed in containers, but this is also not bulk cargo. After a dip in 2020, the growth there can be described as quite staggering: an increase of 41.2%. It also equaled the first six months of 2019. The main strains – steel and iron – grew by 37.8%, due to the sharp rise in steel supplies. General cargo rolls increased by more than a fifth compared to the first half of 2020.
How does the steep climb of conventional general merchandise happen? “On the one hand, you see that demand is picking up again because of the economic recovery,” says Gert Eckx, a spokesperson for the Antwerp Port Authority. On the other hand, high container rates and difficult availability of containers play a role. that causes decontainment, where, for example, steel is no longer transported in containers.
Dry bulk materials (eg grain or coal) increased by 7.5%, but according to the Port Authority, this fluctuates more because products such as fertilizers are seasonal. Liquid bulks – such as oil and kerosene – grew slightly (+1.3%), but are still 6.1% lower than in 2019. Fuels recorded the strongest volumes in May since October last year, while chemical recharges increased 8.9% in the first . half of this year. We hear “Demand for chemicals is booming worldwide due to the recovery of industrial production and this is exceeding pre-pandemic levels”.
The start of Britain’s exit from the European Union at the beginning of this year has had an impact with more controls, longer transit times and higher costs. But Antwerp has done its homework beforehand and fully promoted sea access as an alternative to the road. I have benefited from it. Traffic increased with the United Kingdom by 11.1% and with Ireland by 12.1%.
“We have suggested transportation via short sea freight (“short sea freight” also via the channel, ed.),” says Ickx. “Efficient services have been added, one to Ireland and one to the UK. The current Ireland line also got a higher frequency.”
“After Brexit, Antwerp wants to be the gateway between Europe, the UK and Ireland more than ever,” says CEO Jacques Vandermeeren.