Freight News, Sea

Antwerp volume holds up – for now

[ March 20, 2020   //   ]

The Port of Antwerp says it has not seen any decline in freight volume so far but it expects that fewer ships will call in the coming days and weeks because of the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, 15 fewer large container carriers from Asia will call, corresponding to 115,000teu less freight being carried from and to China.

“The port remains 100% operational thanks to the daily efforts and commitment of all employees,” it added.

The logistics chain is functioning normally and is dealing well with peaks in market demand. Demand for foodstuffs and healthy foods such as bananas has risen, leading to a rise in imports of these products.

Handling on the terminals is going ahead normally, and there is sufficient manpower to deal with cargo, and drivers are arriving and departing without too much delay.

The first meeting of the Port of Antwerp Covid-19 Taskforce was held on 19 March. It confirmed that keeping the port operational is a shared priority, and expressed their full commitment to the operation of the port and to keeping the country supplied.

At the moment the port platform is operational and there are no insurmountable problems. The different approaches of Belgium and the Netherlands. Port of Antwerp is served by Flemish and Dutch pilots. The Dutch position starts from a controlled contamination, while the Flemish standard is much stricter. MDK is working on an approach in consultation with the Netherlands in which the two types of measures are not contradictory.

The port is carrying out basic preventive hygiene measures, providing sufficient cleaning aids in machines. Documents are to be exchanged digitally wherever possible, so as to limit human contact to the minimum. Ships’ crews and personnel on the quay will mainly communicate at a distance by radio or telephone. Social distancing are to be observed as far as possible, in particular keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between people.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam chief executive  Allard Castelein praised the operational continuity and resilience of Europe’s largest port and industrial complex, saying that it remained open for business, despite the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on society and the economy.

Handling ships has been designated by the Dutch government as a vitally important process, and continues unabated. The port is working as usual and operations continue 24 hours a day.