2021 was another year full of challenges for the port of Antwerp. But despite disruptions in the global supply chain, Port of Antwerp performed strongly, matching the record year of 2019. Total cargo throughput in 2021 was 240 million tons; a growth of 3.8% compared to 2020 and slight growth compared to 2019. 2022 promises to be an exciting year, with the merger with Port of Zeebrugge and important milestones for numerous pioneering projects, despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Growth figures thanks to continued resilience
Global containerised liner shipping is still highly disrupted, causing irregular calls from ocean-going vessels and ports to be missed out in the rotation. As a result, average call sizes are getting higher and higher and there are ever-increasing peaks in call sizes. This represents a major challenge for the entire logistics chain in and around the port. In addition, the shortage of port labour, mainly due to COVID-19 and federal measures to combat the virus, also played a role. Container traffic, despite these difficult conditions, held steady in 2021 with a status quo of 12,02 million TEU (-0.1%).
Conventional breakbulk grew by a whopping 73.6%. In 2021, the segment experienced its highest throughput in the past 10 years, achieving a throughput of 11,5 million tons. The main reason for this is the strong throughput of steel (+81%), the most important product group within this segment. RoRo throughput grew 13.9% in tons compared to 2020. The number of vehicles, both new and used, also showed growth compared to 2020 (+8%) but is still 15% below the 2019 level.
Dry bulk throughput increased by 15.1% in 2021. Fertilisers in particular did very well recording the highest throughput in 10 years due to price developments. Liquid bulk numbers grew in line with previous years, expanding this past year by 3.1%. The strong increase in gasoline throughput offset the sharp decline in diesel and fuel oil throughput. The throughput of chemicals had its best year ever, ending at +12.9%.
As a result of the logistical and administrative challenges caused by Brexit, the flow of goods between the EU and the UK decreased. Despite this, the port of Antwerp recorded growth in total throughput of 6.0% with the UK and 14.6% with Ireland compared to 2020, mainly due to the extensive shortsea connections.
The number of reefer containers increased by 2.6% in 2021 compared to the same period last year. This is partly due to increased demand and on the other hand due to the strong maritime position in the shipping areas of Latin America, Africa and the United States.