The MSC Aurora has become the first containership to travel to Antwerp with a 16-metre draft under normal entry procedures, rather than as a trial voyage.
MSC Belgium, the Maritime Services and Coast Agency’s (MDK) pilots and traffic controllers, the Dutch pilots, the Joint Nautical Authority (GNA), and the Port of Antwerp-Bruges collaborated to make this possible.
The series of tests began on 1 March 2021, with the arrival of MSC Regulus with a draft of 15.7 metres, and the MSC Rapallo also had a successful test voyage with a draft of 15.7 metres.
This was followed by the MSC Diletta on 9 July 2022, with a draft of 15.9 meters and the MSC Isabella. On 2 October 2023, the MSC Tessa successfully set the depth record of 16 metres upon arrival from Portugal in the Deurganck dock.
Following the successful completion of the last test with the MSC Raya, several processes were undertaken, and the 16-metre draft is now officially in place, according to Port of Antwerp-Bruges.
According to the port, it can now accommodate the world’s biggest ships. This extra 5 decimetres can result in a 1,000 TEU increase. The additional draft of 16 metres only applies to cargo ships approaching the Deurganck port.
Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and President of the Board of Directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges, said: “For our global economic position, it is essential that we can continue to receive the largest container ships. A draft of 16 metre allows us to further profile ourselves in the Far East, where the largest ships sail.
“This strengthens our position as the first port of call. It gives us a competitive advantage and consolidates our position as a global port. After the first trial run in October, today was the turn of the MSC AURORA to perform the very first official 16 metre journey.”
Marc Beerlandt, CEO of MSC Belgium, stated: “I am pleased that a draft of 16 metres has been achieved in the Port of Antwerp. My sincere thanks go to the pilotage, Maritime Services and Coast (MDK), the Joint Nautical Authority (GNA), and the Port of Antwerp-Bruges for their dedicated efforts to achieve this impressive result.”