The port of Antwerp will close 2016 with an expected record volume of more than 214 million tonnes of freight handled. The shipping container volume for its part has risen above 10 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units, i.e. standard containers) for the first time in the history of the port. Liquid bulk is also showing year-on-year expansion and with an estimated volume of just under 70 million tonnes it’s the second main foundation on which freight growth in Antwerp is based.
There are positive figures also in the conventional breakbulk and dry bulk sectors, although overall the totals for both segments are negative. The continuing trend towards containerisation has depressed the volumes of among other things fruit and paper. Meanwhile the volumes of coal and ore have fallen drastically in all North-West European ports.
Containers and breakbulk
The container volume rose by 4.1% during the past 12 months and is expected to end the year at 117,979,180 tonnes. In terms of the number of containers this represents 10,056,603 TEU, an increase of 4.2%.
With these excellent growth figures Antwerp has further expanded its market share in the Hamburg – Le Havre range. Antwerp has also managed to considerably improve its position in the Far East trade over the past few years, at the expense of its direct competitors Rotterdam and Hamburg.
The situation among international container shipping companies has altered dramatically in the past few years, with companies entering into collaboration and forming alliances in order to achieve cost savings and efficiencies of scale.
In 2017 the shipping scene will be dominated by 2M, Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance, making it more important than ever for ports to secure their place in the respective sailing schedules. So far Antwerp has managed very well in this respect.
In the meantime the ro/ro volume has declined by 1.9%, totalling 4,564,619 tonnes at the end of the 12-month period. This negative result is due to the performance on the export side, as ro/ro exports to Africa and the Near East are down by 15% and 18% respectively. In fact exports to all countries around the Persian Gulf have dipped.
On the import side, however, the ro/ro volume is up by 9.5%.
The conventional breakbulk volume for its part contracted by 2.4%, ending the year at 9,764,796 tonnes. Steel on the other hand experienced strong growth of 12%, but the lower volumes of non-ferrous metals, paper & cellulose and fruit meant that the amount of conventional breakbulk was down overall.
The liquid bulk volume this year is up by 4.5% to 69,653,984 tonnes, with tank storage companies experiencing particularly strong growth. The shipping volume on behalf of the chemical industry has remained fairly stable.
The volume of dry bulk continues to decline: after four quarters the figure stood at 12,441,379 tonnes, a fall of 9.8% compared with the same period in 2015. More specifically the volumes of ore, fertilisers, minerals and coal all showed negative figures.
The number of seagoing ships calling at Antwerp rose by 0.7% in 2016: by 31 December a total of 14,523 ships are expected to have visited Antwerp. Apart from the increased number of ships the growth in gross tonnage is nothing less than spectacular, up 9.5% to 402,665,000 GT.
This figure illustrates well how ships visiting Antwerp are getting bigger and bigger: in 2016 Antwerp welcomed 458 container carriers of 13,000 TEU or more, whereas last year the number in this category was only 320.