On 12 March the Belgian government announced special measures to limit the spread of Covid-19. At the same time the prime minister asked for important sectors of industry including the port to keep their activities going. We are facing up to our responsibility and are making it a priority to keep the port fully operational.
As the main engine of the Belgian economy, Port of Antwerp is essential to keep Flanders and Belgium supplied. We are therefore doing everything necessary to guarantee good operation of the port. In addition we are working actively to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, with various measures:
- We constantly follow the advice of the WHO, EU and Federal Government Departments of Health (Saniport) and Mobility.
- A cross-border, multi-sector taskforce has been set up with various partners to monitor the situation weekly and to impose additional measures where necessary. These partners include Alfaport-Voka, ASV, Cepa, Agentschap voor Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust, de Vlaamse Waterweg, Customs & Excise, Rijkswaterstaat and the cabinet of the Flemish Minister for Mobility
- As always, all incoming ships must submit a Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH) 24 hours before calling at port, in which the ship’s master must declare whether there is any illness or suspected illness on board, together with a list of the last ten ports called at. The ship is screened for this by Saniport.
- All events of Port of Antwerp that are not strictly necessary have been cancelled, and visitors are admitted to critical work locations in the port only where absolutely essential.
- The health and welfare of all employees in Port of Antwerp is a top priority, and we are doing everything necessary to guarantee a safe work environment. Furthermore, many port authorities are organising themselves so that as many employees as possible can work from home and are limiting physical meetings to those that are strictly necessary.
Economic impact on freight transport
The large degree of uncertainty about the spread of the coronavirus makes it difficult to estimate the economic impact on the Port of Antwerp. Since the outbreak is no longer limited to China this will have an effect on the world economy.
15 fewer ships from Asia are expected to call at the port of Antwerp in the coming weeks due to the corona outbreak. This is on top of the number of departures usually omitted at this time of year due to the Chinese New Year. This corresponds to 115,000 TEU (standard containers) less of container traffic to and from China. China is Port of Antwerp’s second-largest trading partner after the USA. As yet it is still too early to estimate the impact on the trade volume from the rest of the world.