The European recession and weak demand for imports led to a decline in cargo volumes at the Port of Antwerp this year, according to preliminary estimates.
The port authority said Thursday that container throughput receded 0.4 percent from last year's level to 8.63 million TEUs and tonnage for all cargo types dipped 1.8 percent to 183.8 million tons.
Bulk freight edged downward 1.3 percent to 64.2 million tons, with dry bulk down 0.4 percent to 19 million tons. Also contributing to the reversal in business was the temporary shutdown of Belgian Refining Corp., which shrank volume for liquid bulk products by 1.7 percent to 45.2 million tons. The port authority said it is poised to handle record volumes because of extra tank storage capacity created by converting wharf areas previously designated for breakbulk traffic.
The amount of breakbulk cargo moved through the port fell 14.9 percent to 10.8 million tons, primarily due to fewer steel shipments. The Port of Antwerp Authority said it recently converted two steel shippers from other ports (Rautaruukki from Port Rotterdam and Stemcor from Flushing) and attracted several new steel shippers to solidify its market share in the steel sector.
On the positive side, Antwerp experienced a 14.1 percent increase in automobile processing to 1.23 million vehicles.
Ship calls at Belgium's largest port were off 4.2 percent to 14,593 compared to 2011. The port expects to service 165 vessels of 10,000 TEUs or more by the end of the year, which was made possible by the government's deepening of the Scheldt river. Last year it received 141 of the mega-container vessels. - Eric Kulisch