By Alexander Whiteman

In 2016, the port of Antwerp will have handled more than 10 million TEUs for the first time in its history, according to its end-of-year 2016 forecast. Figures released by the Port suggest container traffic exceeded 117.9 million tonnes over the 12-month period, equating to more than 10 million TEUs. While final figures have yet to be confirmed, this would indicate growth of 4.2 per cent, following on from 2015’s 7.5 per cent upswing, which saw Antwerp usurp Hamburg’s position as the region’s second largest port, after the port of Rotterdam.

The number of ships visiting the port also increased, albeit by an unremarkable 0.7 per cent year-on-year. However, the size of the ships increased notably, with more than 450 calls from ships exceeding 13,000 TEUs, compared with just 320 of that size in 2015.

Looking ahead, Antwerp said the situation among international container shipping companies had altered dramatically in recent years as shipping firms sought to achieve cost savings and efficiencies of scale through collaboration and entering alliances. “In 2017, the shipping scene will be dominated by 2M, Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance, making it more important than ever for ports to secure their place in the respective sailing schedules,” said the Port. “So far Antwerp has managed very well in this respect.”

Though yet to release results or end-of-year forecasts for 2016, by the mid-point of 2016 Hamburg was not looking likely to retake its position despite having stemmed the rate of decline from 9.6 per cent in 2015 to 1.2 per cent.

The region’s largest port, Rotterdam, struggled to find any growth in 2016. Over the nine months to September, the number of containers handled dropped by 0.4 per cent year-on-year. Despite this, Rotterdam is unlikely to lose its top ranking to the Belgian port, which by September had handled 9.6 million TEUs compared with Antwerp’s 7.5 million TEUs for the nine-month period.

A statement from Port of Antwerp said “excellent growth” had allowed it to further expand its market share in the Hamburg-Le Havre range, and added: “Antwerp has also managed to considerably improve its position in the Far East trade over the past few years, at the expense of its direct competitors, Rotterdam and Hamburg.”

There were, however, some weak spots in the Port’s forecast for last year, with ro-ro volumes expected to have fallen by 1.9 per cent year-on-year in response to declining exports – notably to Africa and the near east, down 15 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. Though it does expect a 9.5 per cent increase in imports.

Conventional breakbulk volumes are also expected to have contracted by 2.4%, due to lower volumes of non-ferrous metals, paper and fruit.

Meanwhile, Port of Antwerp has appointed Jacques Vandermeiren as its new Chief Executive. Mr. Vandermeiren’s appointment – which will also see him take over as President of the Executive Committee – follows the retirement of Eddy Bruyninckx. Mr. Vandermeiren brings more than two decades of experience, having served as Chief Executive of network operator Elia until 2015, after which he went on to form Belgian sustainability platform The Shift and co-invest in Qpinch, which generates energy from waste heat.

Prior to his 14-year stint at Elia, Mr. Vandermeiren spent 11 years as a senior strategy advisor for energy firm Electrabel. In addition to these posts, he has also held various directorships with the Federation of Belgian Energy Companies and the Federation of Belgian Enterprises. Away from his logistics activities, Mr. Vandermeiren serves as Director of the Vascobelo Group, a Belgian coffee brand based in Antwerp.

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (