Port of Antwerp Reports Six Month Declines but Expects Improvement

Port of Antwerp experiences declines in the first six months of 2020

Published Jul 9, 2020 3:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Serving as a barometer on the European economy and reflecting the impact of the coronavirus on global trade, the Port of Antwerp continues to report declines in traffic and volumes. However, while vessel arrivals and throughput are down, and will continue to be impacted by blanked sailings, port officials are optimistic as they see the first signs of a recovery in the European economy.

During the first half of 2020, Antwerp experienced more than a five percent decline in the number of vessels arriving at the port, and despite the increase in the size of vessels, Antwerp recorded in a nearly eight percent decline in the total gross tonnage at the port. 

The lower number of vessels resulted in a nearly five percent decline in the port’s total throughput in the first six months of 2020. The Port of Antwerp reported after a strong first quarter, it experienced a decline in the transshipment of goods.

“Port of Antwerp is a world port that follows the pace of the European and world economy. 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,” says Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp. “The Port of Antwerp is holding up well in the Hamburg-Le Havre range because it is active in many sectors, it is not dependent on a single continent and because of its role as Europe's largest integrated chemical cluster."

Antwerp, however, experienced a decline for 2020 in nearly all sectors of its operations. Container volume at the port was the strongest sector reporting that it was basically flat year over year with its strongest volumes in pharmaceutical products, e-commerce, and health foods. Canceled sailing beginning in April reduced the number of vessel calls at the port, which was partially offset by vessel arrivals in addition to the normal sailing schedules.

The breakbulk sector continued to be adversely affected by global trade issues reducing both in and outbound traffic by nearly 30 percent in the first half of 2020. The throughput of iron and steel, which is the most important freight in this sector, was down by a third for the first six months but experienced its best month of 2020 in June.

Similarly, ro-ro traffic declined by more than 20 percent due to both fewer exports of European cars as well as less supply of Asian cars. The market is partially being impacted by Europe’s stricter rules of passenger car emissions and travel restrictions also affected the second-hand market.

Declines in the energy sector including the transshipment of coal resulted in a 13 percent drop in dry bulk in the first half of the year. This was slightly offset by a one percent increase in fertilizer shipments. Affected by the oil sector, liquid bulk decreased by 7.5 percent in the first six months although fuel throughput increased in May and June.