The reefer market saw worldwide growth in 2020. The port of Antwerp outperformed the global trend in this market segment with its growth figures. The increased volume of reefer containers in Antwerp is partly due to the increased demand for healthy foodstuffs worldwide. Another reason for the growth is due to the attractive position and specialist services offered by the port.
The port handled a total volume of 1 million TEU reefer containers in the year 2020. This represents a 10.5% growth from 2019. Growth was substantial in both imports and exports. It is striking that these results far exceed the worldwide average growth of the reefer market (3% - 4%), as a result of which the port is consolidating its role as an important player in the reefer segment. The volume of reefer containers is steadily making up a larger relative share of the total number of containers handled in Antwerp. 8% of all containers handled at the port of Antwerp are reefer containers, compared with 7.3% in 2019.
Sharing knowledge with Latin America
Cold chain, and in particular the reefer container corridor with Latin America, remains an important pillar in the port's commercial strategy. In recent years, the port of Antwerp has expanded its existing range with several first port of call services from Latin America. In order to share its knowledge on the subject, Port of Antwerp launched a series of webinars for its fellow sectors in countries such as Peru, Colombia and Ecuador in 2020. A successful example of this was the second edition of the Perishables Logistics Seminar organised by APEC, the Port of Antwerp maritime training institute. This course on cold chain logistics in Europe was attended by professionals from across the industry. Owing to continued interest, the port of Antwerp is organising a number of webinars in the spring of 2021.
Pharmaceuticals and GDP ready
A valuable share of the reefer segment is taken up by the transport of pharmaceutical products. In order to guarantee the quality of medical products throughout the distribution process, the EU established the GDP (Good Distribution Practice) guidelines. The port of Antwerp has translated these regulations into a maritime context, making it the first port in the world to take the initiative to operate according to these standards in all links of the logistics chain. This ensures that reefer container transport of pharmaceutical products becomes a valid alternative to air transport and that the service – including with regard to other products in the cold chain – becomes even more high-quality and transparent.
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp: “In this difficult year, we as a port have shown resilience and flexibility. This is now translating into positive figures in the reefer segment. We have noticed that traders in perishables attach great importance to solid service. In order to play a pioneering role in this respect, Port of Antwerp is investing heavily in digitalisation. The use of real-time data, both with regard to the transport and the products, facilitates the timely detection of bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the supply chain. The more we know, the better.”
Marc Vervoort, Branch Manager Hamburg Süd Belgium: “Antwerp features excellent hinterland connectivity deep into the Western European markets combined with very efficient terminal facilities and a special focus on reefer cargo. A good example is Belgian New Fruit Wharf which matches exactly Hamburg Süd’s needs as one of the leading and most reliable reefer carriers for fruits as well as meat and pharmaceuticals. Due to these specialized services for reefer cargoes our business has always been handled very efficiently and professionally in Antwerp. Turning 150 years of age this year Hamburg Süd would be honored to remain amongst the number 1 reefer carriers in the port of Antwerp in 2021 as well.”