Cargo throughput in Port of Antwerp-Bruges rises, despite geopolitical context

After several difficult years, container throughput at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges rose again in the first quarter of 2024, according to the port authority's quarterly figures. The figures reflect the port's "resilience" in a difficult geopolitical context, the authority said.

The port has repeatedly pointed to the "complex geopolitical and macroeconomic context" in recent years to explain why its market share has barely increased compared to ports in neighbouring countries.

Turning point

But the port seems to have reached a turning point in 2024. Total cargo throughput reached 70.4 million tonnes in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 2.4 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2023, while total container throughput increased by 8.6 per cent in the same period.

"After uncertainty and inflation led to a global slowdown in demand for container transport last year, container throughput picked up again from February," the company said in a press release . March was the best monthly throughput for three years and conventional breakbulk volumes were also on the rise.

"Now that the energy crisis is less acute, demand for coal is falling sharply"

However, roll-on/roll-off traffic, mainly cars, fell by 6.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2024. The port points to continuing terminal congestion and low transhipment of used cars and trucks as reasons for this drop.

Liquid bulk transhipments fell by 0.9 per cent, with fuel oil, petrol, chemicals and LNG on the rise and diesel, LPG and other liquid fuels on the decline. Dry bulk, such as fertilisers and ores, fell by 12 per cent. "Now that the energy crisis is less acute, demand for coal is falling sharply," the port said.

A new normal

Overall, container lines seem to have adapted quickly to the difficult geopolitical climate, says CEO Jacques Vandermeiren. "The dangers in the Red Sea forced them to divert to the east-west routes via the Cape of Good Hope, causing disruptions in the logistics chains," he says. "This required adjustments, but diversions soon became the 'new normal'."

"Despite a weak economic environment, the quarterly figures are up," the company says. "We continue to invest in challenging times to future-proof the port."

The port wants to continue attracting the largest container ships to Antwerp. The port recently received a European subsidy for shore power for cruise ships in Zeebrugge.


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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