Port of Antwerp Achieves Record in Liquid Bulk and Container Traffic
04.02.2015 - Port of Antwerp has achieved a new record year, with the port to handle total freight volumes of 199 million tonnes in 2014, a rise of 4.3% on 2013.
Of the 199 million tonnes handled, two sectors were undoubtedly the star performers - containers and liquid bulk, increasing 5.9% and 5.6% respectively.
Liquid bulk puts in strong performance
Liquid bulk put in a robust performance in 2014, when volumes climbed to 62.8 million tonnes. This is significant growth particularly because it follows a hugely successful year in 2013, when liquid bulk surged by no less than 31.4% to 59.5 million tonnes. In terms of liquid bulk, Port of Antwerp has now consolidated its second position in the Antwerp Rotterdam Amsterdam port range.
There were several highlights in Antwerp's petrochemical cluster during the past year following initiatives from the world's leading energy firms, with both ExxonMobil and TOTAL amongst others, announcing major investments. These initiatives ensure that Antwerp has state-of-the-art refineries and can improve its competitive position. The Port Authority is very much supportive on the further development of the petrochemical industry and in line with that ambition it has set up a cluster management organisation for the oil & chemical sector.
Deepsea accessibility and inland connectivity
To ensure the port's position as a major distribution hub for chemicals and petroleum products, the Port of Antwerp Authority is working on several initiatives. One of Antwerp's major assets is its nautical accessibility. The deepening of the River Scheldt ensures deepsea port access., with large product tankers, ultra-large gas carriers and mega container ships calling much more frequently.
While accessibility is vital, so too are investments in infrastructure. Flanders and Antwerp Port Authority are constructing a second lock in Waasland Port and large investments have been made in the railway network. The 16.2 km Liefkenshoek rail tunnel was officially opened in December and will enable traffic to cross quickly and directly between the left bank to the right bank of the River Scheldt and it will improve the connection with the European hinterland. And recently, the Instream campaign, which promotes barge projects was launched.
Every week more than 915 barges call at the port but keeping this barge traffic flowing smoothly requires efficient collaboration between all partners in the chain. Over the past few years this collaboration has led to the development of various digital tools that are designed to make the port more accessible for barges. The Instream campaign draws all these initiatives together, making it clear at a glance how Antwerp stands out from other ports.
The introduction of a second loop of the Premium Barge Service and the new rail tunnel improves transport of containers within the port immensely. Additionally, the Barge Traffic System (BTS) enables container barge operators to request realistic time slots, which makes scheduling much more efficient. Together with this, initiatives are being taken on the E19 to Breda and E313 to Liege to expand rush-hour capacity.
The 'Connectivity Platform' online app provides port users with better information about the various possibilities for transport to and from the port. After just over a year, some 70 transport operators now list their intermodal connections and more than 280 shipping companies showcase their maritime connections from Antwerp to European destinations. Since it was first launched, 200 container terminals in 15 European countries have joined the platform. Users can search for connections per port, country and route. For each destination there is a list of the agents and shipping companies offering services between it and Antwerp, together with important details.
Sustainable, safe and secure operations
In addition to accessibility and infrastructure investments, another key pillar for the Port Authority is creating a sustainable port for the future. Again, several initiatives are underway. By 2016 it should be possible for barges in the port to bunker with LNG from a fixed station. Antwerp Port Authority is one of the partners in the LNG Master Plan for the Rhine-Main-Danube aimed at promoting LNG as a fuel and as a cargo for European barges. As part of this European project the Port Authority is building a bunkering station for barges, partially subsidised by the European Commission's TEN-T programme. Additionally, the first LNG tank station for trucks opened at ADPO and Compressed Natural Gas is now available on both banks of the River Scheldt.
Coupled with this a land survey is being carried out with a view to proactively reserving space for future pipeline investments along the crucial route between Antwerp, Limburg and the Ruhr area. The petrochemical industry within the port has also embarked on several programmes to dramatically reduce emissions in the port. Members of Essenscia, which represents some 50 chemical companies, managed to reduce their NOx emissions by 25% over the period 2009-2013. The chemical industry now represents under 3% of all NOx emissions in Belgium.
Sustainability is twofold: providing a cleaner emissions-free port but also a sustainable one in terms of economic growth and employment. A 2012 report by the National Bank of Belgium showed that added value and employment in the Port of Antwerp have risen sharply. The total added value created by the port represented 8,7% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Flanders. Direct employment represents 2.6% of employment in Flanders, while the total employment represents 6.3% of employment in Flanders. At Belgian level, the port accounts for 5,0% of the total added value created by the port.
And in terms of safety, here too, the port community is working hard on several initiatives. In March 2014, Port of Antwerp published procedures for LNG bunkering for the first time ever. The Port Authority aims to ensure that bunkering with LNG is carried out as safely as possible. The first 'port information network' was established last year, which links companies in the 130 km² Antwerp Port area with the local police and authorities. The network, known as BIN in Antwerp, provides a central phone number whereby the companies in the area can communicate any suspicious activities.
Additionally, the port continues to make sure that it is fully trained in the event of an emergency. In November, a large-scale 'Seveso' disaster exercise took place at the tank storage company Oiltanking Stolthaven. In total some 200 people from various emergency and coordination services took part, including the Port Authority. In parallel, the Antwerp Province Military Command carried out a security exercise in collaboration with the Local Committee for Maritime Security and four ISPS facilities in the port area. Disaster simulations and security exercises are regularly held in the Antwerp port area, in order to coordinate the internal emergency and security plans of the various companies with those of the port, the city and other emergency services. BASF Belgium has also established a new crisis centre and is investing in five fire engines and a new alarm management system.