The port recorded 5.1 percent growth over 2017 and total freight volume in 2018 of 235 million tonnes, a new record, with unparalleled growth in all types of cargo.
Container freight reached 130 million tonnes, up 5.8 percent, or 11 million TEUs, up 5.5 percent. Liquid and solid bulk were up by 4.5 percent to 76.5 million tonnes and 5 percent to 12.8 million tonnes, respectively, while breakbulk had growth of 1.8 percent to 15.6 million tonnes.
Port Authority CEO Jacques Vandermeiren said in order “to keep growing in a sustainable way, we together with the whole port community must strain every effort to meet the challenges facing us today. The port of the future must have enough capacity and be accessible, sustainable, smart and secure to remain attractive for investors.”
The port said while the new record year and an investment surge confirm the vitality of the port, they also confirm earlier forecasts that the maximum container capacity will soon be reached and additional container handling capacity is needed.
“We are already far beyond the optimum capacity limits in the terminals below the locks, with serious consequences for efficiency. We therefore continue to insist that additional container capacity below the locks is urgently needed,” Vandermeiren said. “The Port of Antwerp is doing very well, which is good news for the economy. But it is also very important to keep up this impetus and to build the necessary capacity as soon as possible.”
The port also is addressing mobility problems in and around Antwerp and has a goal of reducing the proportion of freight that travels by road from 55 percent to 43 percent by 2030 and double the proportion of rail transport to 15 percent. The proportion of freight carried by barge is set to increase from the already high level of 38 percent to 42 percent.
In another initiative, the port authority has held workshops with other members of the port community for nighttime logistics, to make better use of the existing facilities outside peak hours. After a test phase in the first half of 2019, the aim is to begin nighttime operations by the summer.
The transition to a circular low-carbon economy is another main objective of the Antwerp Port Authority. Over the next three years, the port authority will invest at least 35 million euros in innovative sustainability projects. This includes making onshore power supplies available for seagoing ships at berth in the Deurganck dock, which will lower nitrogen oxide emissions by 36 percent, according to the port.
“Given the very promising sustainability potential of hydrogen, we are currently studying the feasibility of setting up a hydrogen fuel station in the port. Earlier this month a hydroturbine was installed in the Kallo lock to generate electricity from water power. The aim is to use this advanced technology to make all sea locks in the port energy-neutral in the longer term,” the port said Friday.
“The port of the future will also be a smart port, with the emphasis on innovation and digitization. The port authority has therefore assumed a pioneering role in digital transformation, aimed at becoming an open and innovative hub for the introduction of new technologies,” Friday’s announcement said. “The ambition is to install a digital nervous system covering the entire port with, among other things, smart cameras, sensors and drones to give full monitoring, which in turn will make it possible to respond directly to events in the port.
“In addition, data is being made transparent and available to all players in the supply chain thanks to NxtPort, the data platform for the port that was set up nearly two years ago,” the port said.
Vandermeiren said, “We strongly believe that digitization will smooth the way for smart, efficient and lower-cost logistics and that it will also play an increasingly important role in terms of mobility and monitoring emissions.”