The specially designed Covid-19 task force met for the first time this morning at the Antwerp port. Here it was reaffirmed that the port is part of the essential national infrastructure in Belgium and is of crucial importance for supplying the country and large parts of Europe.
Thanks to the daily efforts and commitment of all employees, the port of Antwerp remains 100 percent functional. At the operational meeting, priorities were also defined and a “port monitor” was introduced. With its help, malfunctions and critical situations in daily operation can be quickly identified and the necessary measures taken.
All important areas of the port and the port authority participated in the first meeting of the task force. They consider maintaining port operations and thus the supply of Belgium and Europe as a common priority and have pledged their full support. During the meeting, the attendees were able to get an overview of the current situation using the newly installed port monitor.
The task force is multidisciplinary and cross-border. To get a complete picture of port activities, all areas within the entire port organization are involved.
Participants are the Port of Antwerp, Alfaport-Voka, ASV, Cepa, ESPO, Essenscia, the Antwerp Fire Brigade, the Antwerp Maritime Police, the Agentschap voor Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust (MDK; Agency for Maritime Services and Coast), the Flemish Waterways Administration, the Belgian Customs and the cabinet of the Flemish Minister of Mobility Lydia Peeters (Open Vld).
The Dutch infrastructure and hydraulic engineering authority “Rijkswaterstaat” is also represented here due to the accessibility of Antwerp via the Scheldt.
The port is operational
The port of Antwerp is operational and there are currently no insurmountable problems in operation. The transhipment at the terminals is normal, there are sufficient personnel available for the transhipment and the arrival and departure of the drivers takes place without major delay. However, the task force has defined a number of points that are continuously monitored:
Different approaches in Belgium and the Netherlands: Both Belgians and Flemings are pilots. While the Dutch approach is based on controlled contamination, the Flemish approach is much more restrictive. Both the Port of Antwerp and the MDK are therefore working on an approach in which the different types of measures are no longer in conflict.
Human resources: Everything is currently under control here. The availability and commitment of the employees are essential for the smooth functioning of all port services. Alternative scenarios are currently being developed for any higher sick leave to continue to ensure the provision of services. In this context, the Task Force expressly thanks everyone who keeps the port running for their commitment.
These existing regulations and measures have been confirmed again:
- Basic preventive hygiene measures
- Provision of sufficient cleaning agents in the plants
- Exchange of documents as far as possible digitally in order to minimize direct human contact as far as possible
- The crews of the ships and the personnel at the quay will mainly communicate via remote communication (by radio, telephone)
- As far as possible compliance with the rules of social distance and a distance of 1.5 meters between individuals
It was decided that no new measures are currently being introduced.
There is currently no decrease in the flow of goods in the port of Antwerp. However, it is expected that fewer ships will call Antwerp in the coming days and weeks due to the Corona outbreak. For example, 15 large container ships will arrive less from Asia, which corresponds to a minus of around 115,000 TEU in traffic to and from China.
The logistics chain works normally and copes well with the current peaks in the market. The demand for food in general and for healthy food such as bananas in particular has increased, which has led to an increase in the supply of these products.
This shows how important it is to continue to open the European borders to all forms of freight transport. The port of Antwerp will continuously monitor this situation and will continue to respond to the requirements of logistics operators and terminals.
The Antwerp Port Covid-19 Task Force will meet weekly. If necessary, the frequency is increased accordingly.