Despite the difficult conditions following COVID-19, the Port of Antwerp achieved very strong growth in the volume of reefer containers for perishables during the first quarter. The exceptional volumes are the result of the port's growing role in the reefer market and increased demand for healthy food and pharmaceutical products during this period.
Growth of 23%
The port saw a strong increase in perishables traffic during the first quarter. A total of 252,452 TEUs of reefer containers were processed, an increase of +23% compared to the first quarter of 2019 (205,157 TEUs). This is exceptional growth, compared to 3.8% and 7.2% in the first quarter of 2018 and 2019 respectively, given the difficult conditions resulting from the coronavirus crisis.
Port 100% operational
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the port has remained 100% operational thanks to the daily efforts and commitment of the entire port community. This allowed the port to continue to fulfil its role as an indispensable link for supplying Europe and contributing to an efficient supply chain. Despite the challenges, the experienced service providers continued to guarantee fast and high-quality unloading. Various logistical services, such as storage and handling customs and food inspection formalities, continued to run efficiently. After a few relaxations in the handling of phytosanitary documents, it was also possible to work digitally, so that in the event that an original certificate was missing, no blockages were created.
Johan Claes, General Director of SEA-Invest, Belgian New Fruit Wharf: “Throughout the entire period, we have succeeded in keeping customer inconvenience to an absolute minimum. It has taken a great deal of investment and effort to comply with all the guidelines, as well as enormous commitment and flexibility from our employees. This ensured that we did not experience any delays during our logistical operations.”
Marc Beliën, Head of the Local Inspection Unit in Antwerp for the FASFC: “FASFC had a business continuity plan ready, aiming to guarantee the continuity of the FASFC's jurisdiction, despite the impact of a crisis situation. It stipulates that import and export inspections of foodstuffs are a priority task and must under no circumstances be interrupted. This ensured an effective response to the measures and risks posed by COVID-19. For example, the use of digital certificates instead of a paper version. Thanks to our flexible personnel plan, we have also been able to cope with the increased number of inspections. These are the result of the increased import activities at the Port of Antwerp on the one hand, and of the recently amended Plant Health regulations that have come into force throughout Europe on the other."
Favourable location and optimum service provision
These results also confirm the increasingly important role played by the Port of Antwerp in the reefer market. Thanks to the Port of Antwerp's favourable inland and central location, container shipping companies working in the major reefer markets are increasingly choosing Antwerp as their first European port of call. It offers shippers of perishables short transit times to key consumer markets in Europe.
Annemie Bosschaerts, Reefer Manager at MSC Belgium NV: "For the crucial perishable trades, MSC continues to consciously choose Antwerp as its first port of call, given its strategic location and gateway to and from Europe. MSC also takes its responsibility as a key player in the distribution of essential food and pharmaceutical products. We always provide sufficient capacity and equipment for this, and MSC has also given full preference to Antwerp in positioning its largest reefer repair shop, S11."
Ingrid Vanstreels, Key Account Manager Shippers & Forwarders at the Port of Antwerp: "These exceptional figures for the first quarter confirm our efforts to be the perishables port of choice in Europe. And thanks to the dedication of the entire port platform, we have indeed been able to achieve this during the difficult circumstances of recent months."