Antwerp port looks to ‘urgent’ capacity expansion on strong growth

Belgium’s Antwerp port has confirmed a need for additional container handling capacity as the port concluded 2018 with expected growth in all types of cargo.

Jacques Vandermeiren, ceo of Antwerp Port Authority, highlighted that the port is already far beyond its optimum capacity limits in the terminals below the locks, with serious consequences for efficiency.

“We therefore continue to insist that additional container capacity below the locks is urgently needed. The port of Antwerp is doing very well, which is good news for the economy. But it is also very important to keep up this impetus and to build the necessary capacity as soon as possible,” Vandermeiren said.

The port authority has forecast growth of 5.1% in 2018 compared to 2017. The expected total freight volume in 2018 comes to 235m tonnes, a new record, with growth in all types of cargo. The large expansion in container freight continues, reaching 11m teu, up 5.5% year-on-year. Liquid and solid bulk are up by respectively 4.5% to 76.5m tonnes and 5% to 12.8m tonnes, while breakbulk has experienced growth of 1.8% to 15.6m tonnes.

In addition, last year saw international players in the chemical industry including Borealis, INEOS, Nippon, Sea-Mol and Oiltanking/AGT brought a wave of investment to the port, amounting to more than EUR2bn ($2.3bn).

“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,” Vandermeiren said.

He added that a recent draft version of the Preference Decree for creation of additional container capacity represents a breakthrough. The capacity expansion work has to carefully consider nautical and operational issues in order to make it feasible and attractive for operators while limiting environmental impact.

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Over the next three years, Antwerp Port Authority will also invest no less than EUR35m in innovative sustainability projects such as making cold ironing systems available, promotion of alternative fuels like LNG and hydrogen, and installation of hydroturbine in sea locks to generate electricity from water power.

Antwerp port is also looking to assume a pioneering role in digital transformation, with an aim of installing a digital nervous system covering the entire port with smart cameras, sensors, drones, among others, to give full monitoring. Data is being made transparent and available to all players in the supply chain thanks to NxtPort, the data platform for the port that was set up nearly two years ago.

Posted 02 January 2019

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Lee Hong Liang

Asia Correspondent

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