Port of Antwerp first-quarter figures: containers continue to reign supreme

Port of Antwerp first-quarter figures: containers continue to reign supreme

Container traffic continues to grow, with March 2019 as the strongest month ever in terms of containers.

During the past quarter, the total maritime cargo turnover of Port of Antwerp fell by 3%, bringing the situation back to normal following the record figures of the first quarter in 2018. As the quarter unfolded, the total maritime cargo turnover again showed an upward trend. This trend is expected to continue in the coming months, also thanks to extra MSC cargo between Antwerp and Northern Europe starting in April.  

Container traffic: the strongest month of March ever

Container traffic put in a strong month in March, and even outperformed the month of March 2018, the previous best month ever.

The container market share (in tonnes) of Port of Antwerp rose to 27.5% in 2018, or an increase by 0.7%. This allows Port of Antwerp to post the highest increase in the Hamburg-Le Havre range. Net growth amounted to 650,000 TEU.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of the Port Authority, explains: “Our container troughput continues to grow despite the weakened economic outlook. This is good news for Port of Antwerp and consolidates our excellent position as a container cargo hub in the global logistics chain.

Breakbulk: slight decline on the artificially high first quarter in 2018 due to US levies  

Conventional breakbulk did rather well in the first quarter of 2019, but moderately well compared to the exceptional first quarter of 2018, driven by the build-up of steel stocks in anticipation of US import levies. As a result, iron and steel transhipment remained 5% below last year’s level.

RoRo transhipment was up 3.2%. Despite the decline in the number of rolling stock units, the number of tonnes went up thanks to the average weight per vehicle, especially in the utility vehicle category.

Dry bulk: top month for fertilisers

During the first quarter, total dry bulk transhipment decreased by 8.8% as a result of the lower troughput of ore (-22.9%), coal (-16.5%), scrap (-10.2%) and fertilisers (-2.2%). Troughput of sand and gravel was up 6%. Troughput of fertilisers made a strong recovery in March, with the best month troughput since February 2011.

Dry bulk is traditionally characterised by high volatility, with various commodities having highly varying characteristics.

Liquid bulk: recovery in March after a weak January and February

Liquid bulk recorded a decline of 8.6% in the first quarter. After two weaker months (-12.4%), March showed a marked recovery, albeit less pronounced for petroleum derivatives, the largest segment within liquid bulk.  A mild winter in 2019 versus a colder one in 2019 has an impact on the transhipment of petroleum derivatives. Also the slowdown in growth of the EU economy had implications for production volumes and energy demand, as did the evolution of crude oil prices.

Of particular note was the recovery in the transhipment of petroleum and chemicals. After three months, crude oil transhipment remains unchanged with 0.1%. Chemicals remain virtually unchanged (-0.6%) and saw a nice recovery in March following a sharp decrease in January and February.

Seagoing vessels

During the past three months, 3,519 seagoing vessels (-0.3%) called at Antwerp. The gross tonnage of these ships decreased by 0.2% to 101,539, 585 GT.

Annnick De Ridder, alderman for the Port, concludes:  “We can look back on a strong first quarter with continued growth in container traffic. These figures confirm the role of Port of Antwerp as one of the main economic pillars of the country and as a major employer. To secure the future prosperity of our port, we urge Flanders to proceed soon with the approval of the draft preference decision on container handling capacity.”

About Port of Antwerp

As Europe's second-largest port, the Port of Antwerp is 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 235 million tonnes of international maritime freight, and is home to Europe's largest integrated (petro)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.  

True to its mission 'a home port vital for a sustainable future’, Antwerp Port Authority aims to flexibly respond to a rapidly evolving maritime market, allowing the port to continue playing its role as a leading world port. The emphasis in this respect is on cooperation, adaptability, a strong focus on innovation and digitisation, and on sustainable added value, as well as on responsibility towards society. 

Antwerp Port Authority is a limited liability company of public law, with the City of Antwerp as sole shareholder. It employs over 1,500 people. Port alderman Annick De Ridder is chairman of the Board of Directors and Jacques Vandermeiren is CEO and President of the Executive Committee, which is responsible for the day-to-day management. www.portofantwerp.com  

Port of Antwerp
Havenhuis
Zaha Hadidplein 1
2030 Antwerp
Belgium