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Author(s): Professor Theo Notteboom, Shanghai Maritime University, Ghent University, Antwerp Maritime Academy, University of Antwerp

The year 2016 will go down in history as another year of sluggish cargo volume growth. A few European ports present rather healthy growth figures, but the vast majority faces a very weak or even negative growth. Table 1 provides an overview for a number of larger European ports based on provisional or partial figures for 2016. In 2015, the cargo tonnage handled in the entire European port system was still 4.6% below the 2008 volumes.

The first estimates for 2016 suggested that it too would fail to beat the 2008 record. The low growth situation of the past years has resulted in a few interesting developments. Firstly, it is evident that quite a few European ports are engaged in port area transformation processes on a scale never seen before.

Such transformation includes the reconfiguration of existing port areas, the decommissioning of obsolete terminals and the implementation of more flexible land planning tools. In a few cases entire terminals moved, as demonstrated by the transfer of the large scale MPET container terminal (TIL/PSA) from the Delwaidedock on the right bank to the Deurgankdock left bank in the port of Antwerp. This move not only increased the capacity of the terminal from around 5 million TEU to 9 million TEU, it also opened the door to a redevelopment of the Delwaidedock site for (non-container based) port activities.

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