Antwerp volume surges despite transshipment traffic dip

Antwerp volume surges despite transshipment traffic dip

Antwerp has continued its container volume growth this year.

The Port of Antwerp reported a some of its best-ever container handling figures in the second and third quarters of 2017 as volume grew solidly at the European hub, despite a drop in transshipment numbers.

Antwerp handled 7.8 million TEU through September, a year-over-year increase of 3.2 percent in the first nine months of the year. Within those numbers, however, was a decline in European transshipment volume that fell 4.5 percent, which the port attributed to a loss in inbound shipments of this transit cargo.

Yet strong as Antwerp’s performance was, the Belgian port continued to slip behind its bigger rival Rotterdam. The Port of Rotterdam posted a record third quarter and a 10 percent increase in container throughput to 10.2 million TEU in the first nine months of the year.

The Dutch port puts its growth down to a favourable position within the new sailing schedules adopted by the major alliances, increased productivity, and throughput volume at the Maasvlakte 2 terminals and the port’s appeal as a transshipment port in connection with increased vessel sizes and feeder options to European ports.

Antwerp and Rotterdam benefited from a changing container mix driven by the steadily improving demand. In the first three quarters, Antwerp handled 4.6 percent more full containers than in the same period last year, while the number of empties fell by 4.4 percent. Rotterdam put its strong nine-month showing to a strong increase in the number of full containers handled in the port and the falling number of empties.

In a statement, the Port of Antwerp said the growth in container volume was due in part to the sailing schedules of the new alliances and new liner services that have been started and have opted for Antwerp. The result has been a sharp growth in container freight and the port said the second quarter was the best ever for Antwerp with 2.66 TEU, followed closely by the third quarter when 2.65 TEU were handled.

An upbeat Port of Antwerp CEO Jacques Vandermeiren said the port was managing to maintain its growth rate. “In fact this trend is holding steady from past years,” he said.

“Antwerp has been performing extremely well for quite a time now in a market that is otherwise characterised by volatility and fluctuations. If in such a situation you manage to not only maintain but also grow your market share, that gives you confidence in the future.”

While Antwerp has slipped further behind Rotterdam, it has widened the lead over Hamburg, which it ousted as Europe’s second-largest container hub a few years ago after the German port’s growth slowed and then declined.

Hamburg is confident it can win back market share following a German federal court giving the port conditional approval to deepen the rival Elbe, its 38-mile navigation channel to the North Sea, which will enable 24/7 passage of the largest fully laden container ships that it can currently only handle at high tides.

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.