The Port of Antwerp reported total throughput for the first quarter stable at 59.1 million metric tonnes, compared to the same period last year.
Container throughput grew by 0.6 percent (metric tonnes) and 2.3 percent (TEUs) in the first quarter of 2021 compared with first quarter 2020, which started strongly and then saw a downturn due to the initial effects of the pandemic in March 2020. January 2021 saw a continuation of the strong performance seen in autumn 2020, although a number of operational challenges hampered the operation of the container terminals. For example, there were long delays in arrivals of container ships as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The severe cold snap in February had an additional negative impact on container handling and the effects of this continued into March. The Suez Canal incident will cause further delays to container ship calls and operational challenges throughout the second quarter.
The breakbulk segment had its best quarter since the second quarter 2019. The throughput of iron and steel, the most important goods group in this segment, increased by 18.2 percent due to a peak in the supply of steel, which can be explained amongst others by the new import quotas that took effect on 1 April. The RoRo throughput remained stable compared to first quarter 2020, both in new and used vehicles.
Dry bulk throughput increased by 6.7 percent. Apart from growth in the throughput of non-ferrous ores and scrap, this growth was found mainly in the throughput of fertilisers (+40.7 percent). The throughput of fertilizers within a single quarter is unprecedented in the last decade. Liquid bulk recorded a drop of 5 percent, mainly due to a sharp decline in the throughput of crude oil. Derivatives saw a slight decrease (-1 percent) compared with first quarter 2020, while chemicals saw a modest increase of 4.4 percent.
Jacques Vandermeiren, chief executive officer Port of Antwerp: “We have faced several disruptions in the global supply chain over the last year: the pandemic, Brexit, the Suez incident … In these challenging times, Port of Antwerp is proving its agility and resilience. The global spread over different shipping areas, the large storage capacity, and the professionalism and efficiency of Antwerp’s port community are the basic ingredients of our success.”
Annick De Ridder, Port Alderman: “Despite the difficult circumstances in which we started 2021, we are able to show that the port is holding its own. This is testament to the resilience of our port and of all the employees who work at the port platform. They are still ensuring that everything keeps running and that the port of Antwerp can continue to play its crucial role in provisioning our country and our economy.”