The Port of Antwerp has recorded throughput levels matching its record year in 2019, despite facing disruptions in the global supply chain in 2021.
The port’s container traffic held steady in 2021, processing over 12 million TEU.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to present a number of challenges, including labour shortages, irregular calls from ocean-going vessels and ports being missed out in rotations.
On top of this, the number of reefer containers also increased by 2.6% in 2021 compared to the same period the previous year. This was due to increased demand and the port’s strong maritime position in the shipping areas of Latin America, Africa, and the United States.
Total cargo throughput in the year was 240 million tons, a growth of 3.8% compared to 2020 levels and a slight increase over 2019 figures.
The flow of goods between the EU and the UK saw a significant decline as a result of the logistical and administrative challenges caused by Brexit. Despite this, the Port of Antwerp recorded growth in its total throughput of 6% with the UK and 14.6% with Ireland when compared to 2020. This is said to be due to the port’s extensive shortsea connections.
This next year is set to focus heavily on Antwerp’s merger with the Port of Zeebrugge. The official launch date for the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is at the end of April 2022.
“The ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the many outstanding vacancies, the Suez incident and the associated global disruptions made 2021 another challenging year for our port,” said Annick De Ridder, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Port of Antwerp and Antwerp Alderman.
“Thanks to the dedication and resilience of the entire port platform, we not only weathered these storms, we even managed to return to the record year of 2019. Moreover, with the approval of the BMA, the merger with the Port of Zeebrugge has set the final straight. Together, we can focus even more on the transition to a low-carbon economy and on the further digitalisation of the logistics chain.”
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO for the Port of Antwerp, added “Despite the strong performance, 2021 was not an easy year for our port. Thanks to the resilience and world-renowned qualities of our port community, we have returned to the 2019 pre-COVID-19 [levels] after barely a year.
“However, there continue to be important areas of concern. Short-term labour availability in this challenging situation. In the longer term, the nitrogen matter, the achievement of much-needed additional container capacity, and the energy transition will be great challenges. That is why the historic agreement of the merger with the Port of Zeebrugge is visionary. Together, we are stronger to face the challenges of the future.”
Over the next few years, the port aims to focus on priorities of transition and sustainable growth. The program includes the delivery of the first methanol-power tug, the methatug, the establishment of the NextGen District, alongside many other measures.
“Port of Antwerp seeks to reaffirm its pioneering role in the transition to climate neutrality in 2022,” continued Vandermeiren.
“Thanks to pioneering lighthouse projects, such as the hydrogen import coalition and Anterp@C/Kairos@C, for the capture and storage of CO2, we can live up to this role and accelerate the transition. In addition, the sustainable growth of our port remains an absolute priority. We therefore hope that we will soon receive the permit for the renewal of the Europa terminal so that we can start the works.”
De Ridder furthered this, stating “The port of the future must be one that fully understands and endorses the climate ambitions and environmental objectives. To this end, 2021 saw many, mainly major, steps taken, always embedded in fruitful collaborations, even beyond our borders.
“For the Port of Antwerp, 2021 was certainly also the year of ‘smart security’. Innovation and digitalisation are crucial to ensuring the sustainable growth of our port in the long term.”