Drop in first-quarter throughput ‘confirms importance of Zeebrugge merger and extra container capacity’

The Port of Antwerp said that its total throughput came to 58.3m tonnes in the first quarter of 2022, a drop of 1.5 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The port said that, on the eve of its merger with Port of Zeebrugge, the quarterly figures “confirmed the importance of responding to current challenges collectively and further reinforcing the position in the international logistical chain”.

Furthermore, the drop in the container segment, partly the result of capacity problems, underscored the urgency of extra container capacity, it noted.

“Despite difficult circumstances, the container segment held firm in 2021,” the port authority stated. “In the first quarter of 2022, however, container traffic saw a fall of 11.6 per cent in TEU compared to the same period last year, the second best quarter ever for containers.

The disruption to container liner trade, delays and high import call sizes (number of containers unloaded by ships) has posed protracted operational challenges, making the operation of the container terminals more difficult, while the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the sanctions imposed have put pressure on the number of containers handled.

“The protracted challenges in the logistics chain are revealed in the figures,” explained Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp. “They confirm that through this merger, we will gain a stronger position for the future.

“Along with Zeebrugge, we have the ability to further reinforce our position in the international logistics chain, in the current complex geopolitical and macro-economic context.”

Annick De Ridder, vice-mayor City of Antwerp and president Port of Antwerp, said that the economic urgency for additional container capacity had been demonstrated again and more than ever by the declining figures and congestion problems.

“Extra container capacity is indispensable to secure our position as a world port,” she said. “Thanks to the recent positive outcome of the negotiations on the ECA project, we have already taken an extremely important step.

“The unified port will thus be able to further face international competition and continue to grow sustainably as the engine of the Flemish economy.