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Coal props up Antwerp’s Q1 dry bulk throughput

The Port of Antwerp handled three times as much coal in Q1 2020 as it did in the same period last year due to increased speculation in this commodity.

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Coal props up Antwerp’s Q1 dry bulk throughput

The Belgian port’s overall dry bulk volume at the end of the first quarter was only slightly up, by 1.2% though.


Scrap metal experienced light growth than coal, while other types of dry bulk such as fertilisers, ore and sand came under pressure and are trending downwards, the port authority said.


“The current pandemic is causing disruptions to production and supply chains around the world,” it explained. “As an international hub for the transport of goods, inevitably we will feel the effects of this. The impact of the crisis during Q1 has remained fairly limited, but it will become apparent in Q2 with cancelled departures, large sectors of industry such as the car industry in Western Europe being shut down, and changing patterns of consumer behaviour.”


“At the moment, however, it is impossible to predict the final impact on the global economy and thus also the volume of freight passing through the port of Antwerp. Much will depend on how quickly industry is able to start up again and consumer confidence to return. Port of Antwerp together with Alfaport-Voka will continue to monitor the situation among port companies and to take any measures that may be necessary.”


The total freight volume handled by Port of Antwerp rose by 4% in Q1 2020 year-on-year, with container traffic making up for the decline in other freight categories such as conventional breakbulk and vehicles.


With growth of 9.5% in TEU and 9.4% in tonnage the container trade remains by far the largest segment in the port of Antwerp. There was a noticeable increase in the amount of pharmaceuticals and e-commerce goods, and there was higher demand for long-life foodstuffs. With the exception of a slight decline in goods from the Far East (down 2.2%) all trading regions experienced strong growth.


The vicissitudes of world trade since mid-2019 continue to weigh on the breakbulk volume. This has resulted in a total decline of 27.8%, with imports being hit harder than exports.


The volume of iron and steel, the most important category in this segment, continued its negative trend with a contraction of 36.8%. The shutdown in the car trade inflicted a double blow on the breakbulk volume, with reduced steel imports on the one hand and an 18% drop in the number of new cars on the other. The total ro-ro volume was down by 20.3%.


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