Antwerp sees stability in core container trade

The Port of Antwerp, one of Europe’s leading container ports and its largest chemical logistics location, has reported that business for the past three quarters declined by 4.4% measured in volume terms.

Container traffic has had a remarkable trajectory, with volumes reaching what Antwerp calls “rock bottom in May and June” but demand leapt back again in September to over 1m TEUs. For the past three quarters, the terminals at the port have handled 8.85m containers, 0.2% less than the same period last year. It appears that traffic patterns have changed with Antwerp saying that growth was driven mainly by routes to the “Far East and within Europe”. The port has been affected by the trend towards ‘blanked sailings’ but this is now being reversed with “extra runs outside the regular sailing schedules” being organised, something that suggests higher growth in the short-term.

The chemical dry and liquid bulk logistics sectors saw a mixed picture, with liquid bulk falling by 5.7% year-on-year but the export of all chemicals up 2.8% over the period. However, imports fell by 11.5% leading to an overall decrease of 7.3% in all chemical logistics activity.

The car carrier business is important for Antwerp and it has suffered from a sharp fall over the past nine months with “no clear recovery in September”. Over the period there was a 30% drop in vehicles compared to the same period in 2019. Break-bulk has been affected by what the port calls a “permanent drop” particularly as a result of changes in trade patterns for steel products. Again, it has been an absence of growth in the early Autumn that has depressed the sector.

The Port of Antwerp headlines its experience over the past nine months as “the recovery continues” and it may be true that “compared to most other ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range, the port is holding up very well.” However, the fact that the port is having to extend the payment period of port fees for its customers indicates that parts of the sector at least remain distressed.

Judging by these figures and those from similar ports, it can be suggested that for global marine logistics although the core global container trade is stable with the prospect of some growth in the short to medium term, the prospects elsewhere are much less bright, with automotive logistics in particular hit hard.

Source: Transport Intelligence, October 20, 2020

Author: Thomas Cullen