Increase in cargo at Port of Antwerp despite Brexit, Covid-19

Increase in cargo at Port of Antwerp despite Brexit, Covid-19
Archive image. Credit: Port of Antwerp

The Port of Antwerp saw an increase in cargo in the first six months of the year, including throughput from the UK and Ireland in spite of Brexit’s effect on trade with the EU.

In these first six months, 120 million tonnes in total were shipped through the Port, an increase of 5% compared to the same period in 2020, bringing the numbers back to the pre-coronavirus levels of 2019.

“We knew that Brexit would have major consequences for freight transport between Europe and the United Kingdom, but by preparing ourselves well and focusing on short sea connections and LoLo (Note: load on/load off) cargo, we can turn the challenges into opportunities,” said Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp.

“The positive half-year figures for transshipment with the United Kingdom and Ireland confirm this. After Brexit, Antwerp wants more than ever to be the gateway between Europe and the United Kingdom and Ireland.”

With an annual cargo flow of around 15 million tonnes, the UK is the third largest maritime trading partner for the Port.

When Brexit took effect at the beginning of the year, it created major challenges including more checks, longer transit times and higher costs. As a result, the flow of goods between the EU and the UK decreased overall.

Despite the difficult conditions, which have cost the plant sector millions, the Port of Antwerp recorded growth of 11.1% in total throughput with the UK and 12.1% with Ireland in the first half of the year compared with the first six months of 2020.

In preparation for Brexit, the Port concentrated its efforts into further expanding short sea connections with the UK and Ireland, a move aimed to shift from ferry to container transport.

Five years after the Brexit referendum first passed, the Port of Antwerp is now connected with 12 British and Irish ports, and says that Irish importers and exporters are increasingly abandoning the land bridge over the UK in favour of a direct maritime connection.

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Despite the still-ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, all cargo flows at the Port of Antwerp recorded record growth in these first six months.

“Despite the difficult circumstances in which we started 2021, we can show that the port is holding its own and is once again even recording growth in container handling,” said Annick De Ridder, port alderman.

“The economic urgency for extra container capacity is thus demonstrated again and more than ever. The figures are a confirmation of the resilience of our port and of the flexibility of all employees who ensure that everything keeps running.”

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