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2018 a record year for Antwerp

2018 a record year for Antwerp

(Posted on 07/01/19)

2018 looks set to be a record year for the Port of Antwerp for the sixth time in a row, with growth in all types of cargo and a recent wave of investments. This confirms the port's attraction and further establishes its position as a world-class player that is also home to the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe. Crucially it also assures the continuity of the port's role as the main engine of the Belgian economy. In 2019 the Port Authority will keep to the same course, further building a sustainable future for the port. In pursuit of this goal it is concentrating heavily on structural solutions to challenges such as mobility, the energy transition, digitisation and innovation.

With expected growth of 5.1% compared with 2017, the earlier forecasts of a 6th successive record year have been confirmed. The expected total freight volume in 2018 comes to 235 million tonnes, a new record, with unparalleled growth in all types of cargo. Solid and liquid bulk for their part are up by respectively5% (to 12.8 million tonnes) and 4.5% (to 76.5 million tonnes), while breakbulk has experienced growth of 1.8% (to 15.6 million tonnes).The large expansion in container freight continues, reaching 130 million tonnes (up 5.8%) or 11 million TEU (up 5.5%).

Wave of investment confirms attraction of chemical cluster

In 2018 leading international players in the chemical industry including among others Borealis, INEOS, Nippon, Sea-Mol and Oiltanking/AGT brought a huge wave of investment to the port, amounting to more than 2 billion euros. Their choice of Antwerp further confirms the port's attractiveness for chemical companies, as the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe. Indeed it makes Antwerp even more attractive for them.

Port Authority CEO Jacques Vandermeiren declared: "With these excellent growth figures and the recent surge of investment, in 2018 the port has once more confirmed its role as the main engine of the Belgian economy. Now we will continue on the same course as before, towards a sustainable port of the future. But to keep growing in a sustainable way, we together with the whole port community must strain every effort to meet the challenges facing us today. The port of the future must have enough capacity and be accessible, sustainable, smart and secure to remain attractive for investors."

 With roadworks about to start on the Oosterweel interchange, structural solutions to mobility problems in and around Antwerp are more urgent than ever. The Antwerp Port Authority is facing up to its social responsibilities in this area, collaborating with the rest of the port community to develop structural solutions for reducing the pressure on mobility both for freight and for private transport.

For freight transport the aim is to achieve a significant modal shift by 2030, reducing the proportion of freight that travels by road from 55% to 43%. The parallel aim is to double the proportion of rail transport, bringing it to 15%. Railport – a joint initiative by Antwerp Port Authority, the Left Bank Development Corporation and the industry associations essenscia Vlaanderen and Voka Alfaport – assumed responsibility for this in 2018. In the meantime constructive discussions are under way with Infrabel (rail track operator) to develop a new operating model for rail infrastructure in the port with a view to raising the flexibility and efficiency of rail transport.

The proportion of freight carried by barge is set to increase from the already high level of 38% to 42%. Earlier this year the port community signed a Container Barge Action Plan based on three main foundations, namely collaborative scheduling of barge movements, consolidation of container volumes and digitisation. The interplay of these various measures should make container barge transport more efficient, with consequent benefits for all participants in the supply chain.The first pilot projects for centralised barge scheduling have led to positive reactions in the market.

In another initiative the Port Authority has held workshops with other members of the port community for night-time logistics, to make better use of the existing facilities outside peak hours. The Night Logistics Action Plan was set up in October with all the parties involved. After a test phase in the first half of 2019 the aim is to begin operation by the summer, to coincide with the start of the Oosterweel roadworks.

To remain accessible for the 60,000 employees in the port, the Port Authority is working on various initiatives aimed at encouraging people to leave their car at home and make use of sustainable alternatives. The Water Bus and Bike Bus are good examples of promoting a sustainable modal shift for commuter transport.

As the year 2018 comes to an end so also does the career of Marc Van Peel. After 12 years as alderman for the port and chairman of Antwerp Port Authority, this veteran politician will take leave of Port House for the last time and begin his well-deserved retirement. In his honour the new Wagen room on the ground floor has been renamed in his honour: henceforth it will be called "Event Hall in honour of Marc Van Peel, President of the Antwerp Port Authority from 2007 to 2018."

At the same time Antwerp will welcome Annick De Ridder as the new port alderman at the beginning of the year. "I am confident that we can look forward to constructive collaboration," Jacques Vandermeiren concluded.

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