Geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges “weigh heavily” on quarterly figures as container segment declines

Port of Antwerp-Bruges flag

The total throughput at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges came to 68.7m tonnes in the first quarter of 2023, a drop of 4.5 per cent when compared with the same period last year.

According to the port authority, this decline was due to the ”still complex geopolitical and macroeconomic context”, which led to a drop in the container segment and significant shifts in cargo flows.

Container throughput fell 6.6 per cent year-on-year in tonnes and 5.7 per cent in TEUs, it reported.

”Operational challenges at container terminals and congestion have slowly declined since the third quarter of 2022,” the port authority outlined.

”Economic uncertainty and inflation led to a global slowdown in demand for container shipping and the cancellation of sailings, particularly those from the Far East.

”Along with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which caused Russia-related traffic in the first three months of 2023 to be two-thirds lower than in the same period last year, this has resulted in a 6.6 per cent drop in container throughput in tonnes and 5.7 per cent in TEUs, compared to the first quarter of 2022.”

In the first quarter, 4,946 ocean-going vessels called at the port, down 3.7 per cent, while the gross tonnage of these vessels fell by 3.8 per cent.

“These results show that the world port is at the centre of a continuously challenging geopolitical and macroeconomic context,” explained Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp-Bruges. ”But despite these disappointing figures, the outlook for 2023 remains positive.

”Falling energy prices, an improving Chinese economy and signs that the liner market is also picking up are reasons to be confident about the future,” he added. ”Moreover, the complementarity of the two port platforms allows us to better respond to shifts in cargo flows.”