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Issue 5 2014 - Freight Business Journal


Antwerp: Britain’s old friend across the water

The biggest infrastructure development at the port of Antwerp is the construction of a second lock at the Leſt Bank area, which, when it goes into operation in the first quarter of 2016, will be the largest in the world. Another important scheme is the rail connection between Leſt and Right Bank under the river Scheldt which will be operational from the end of 2014. Senior business development

manager, Wim Dillen, explains: “Our development plan for the future foresees port expansion at Leſt bank, but also creation of several of logistic parks on both sides of the river. Our master plans for road, rail and barge include further improvement of the connectivity to/from our hinterland in years to come.” It is also expected that growth

in container traffic and the move of MSC’s Home terminal from the Leſt to the Right Bank will have a positive impact on links to and from hinterland. Antwerp

has many direct

connections with ports in the UK. Combined feeder and door-to-door carriers such as BG Freight Line and Eucon are offering sailings between Antwerp and Felixstowe,

Grangemouth, Liverpool, Belfast, Teesport and Immingham, along with Dublin and Cork. MSC also has a vast network of

services connecting Antwerp with ports all over the UK and Ireland, most of them dedicated feeders. Antwerp is both its main European hub for cargo to and from the continental inland and its main European bridgehead for feeders. Dillen adds: “In Antwerp the

carrier is benefiting from the world’s highest productivity and from the efficiency gains which result from the concentration of volumes. There is no doubt that MSC’s volumes are a dominant factor in the success of the port of Antwerp in the feeder sector. This example shows that Antwerp still has an enormous potential to develop its feeder market further and to capitalise on its ideal position also for containers to and from the British Isles.” Atlantic Container Lines (ACL),

part of the Grimaldi Group, also offers sailings to Liverpool for containers, ro ro and heavy or oversized cargoes, using its con-ro vessels on the Atlantic and US Gulf service. The

Grimaldi Group itself connects Tilbury, Cork and

Portbury with Antwerp on their West African, South American and Mediterranean services. Finnlines, also part of the Grimaldi Group, links the ports of Immingham and Hull directly with Antwerp for transshipment cargo to South- Africa. Transfennica, part of the Spliethoff Group, offers


for ro ro, containers and project cargoes from Antwerp to Tilbury. And Fast Lines, a dedicated Antwerp carrier, offers regular connections with smaller UK and Irish ports. Some other deep-sea carriers

accept door-to-door containers on their intra-European loops, connecting Antwerp with UK ports- and cargoes shipped on chartered vessels are also quite substantial. The

short-sea sector has

though in general suffered from a temporary dip in volumes, due to the financial crisis which also caused a decrease in intra- European trade. The ferry services are still the dominant short-sea operators to and from the UK and the ports closest to the sea, such as Zeebrugge, Calais and Dunkerque, which

offer the

shortest transit times and are the preferred partners for the trucking

companies. Antwerp’s share in the door-to-

door short-sea business thus has a lot of room for improvement. For unaccompanied transport, such as pallet-wide containers (or side-loader containers), unaccompanied trailers and containers, it though is the more logical choice, Dillen argues: “Thanks to the availability of ample local cargoes (it is home to the biggest chemical cluster in Europe), the excellent connectivity to the hinterland by barge, rail and truck and the fact that Antwerp is a cargo generating centre, the potential for short-sea operators is quite big but also partly unexplored.” The Port Authority is working to

facilitate and stimulate the growth of Antwerp as an attractive hub for the short-sea sector. Dillen says: “The port choice for short- sea connections is still very much made on basis of purely vessel related issues. However, if it is the short-sea sector’s aim to really make a contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of the supply chain, it will have to become more cargo oriented. “This means bringing the vessel

as close as possible to the point of origin and destination of the cargo

flows. At this moment the opposite is happening: quite oſten, the vessel chooses the most convenient port and the cargo is hauled mainly over the road. This represents millions of tonne/kilometres which could be avoided.” Road operations will gradually

become more expensive due to truck taxes, motorway vignettes, road congestion pricing, fuel prices and congestion. “All these extra costs and inconveniences will in future be an incentive to supply chain architects to reduce the driven kilometres and choose a longer maritime route instead. This evolution will, beyond any, be a card in Antwerp’s favour.” Antwerp is therefore preparing

to become an even more attractive hub for the short-sea sector by improving coordination between the container terminals, minimising time in port, optimising stowage and consolidating volumes into as few berths as possible. As far as the door-to-door

sector is concerned, Antwerp is determined to boost cooperation between the various players in the private sector. Dillen says: “Although competition is crucial to keep this segment dynamic, we believe it is also necessary for road hauliers, short sea operators and

forwarders to cooperate

operationally. True cooperation leads to improved quality levels and a better contact with the cargo owners, who consequently become more interested and use these new supply chain systems to improve the reliability as well as the sustainability of their logistics.” He says that the Port of Antwerp

is confident that it will continue to play an important role in the exchange of goods between the British Isles and the Continent and that its role will grow significantly in the future. Antwerp has historically hosted

a large forwarder community - over 200 companies, most of

them member of VEA, Antwerp’s Forwarding Association. Their role in developing traffic is very important and they may be considered as true logistic & supply chain engineers. Antwerp is the leading break-

bulk port and also the largest steel port in Europe, last year handling close on 9 million tonnes of steel and non-ferrous products. It is also the largest consolidation hub in Europe for project cargo, which accounts for at least 4m tonnes a year. And at over 1.3m units in 2013, it

is very important for cars and other vehicles. Antwerp is the world’s largest

unloading port for bananas and also the largest conventional fruit port of Europe - last year it handled 1.3m tonnes of conventional fruit. On top of this, it is the world’s

largest storage location for coffee, and a very important storage location of cocoa (with a brand new state of the art bulk warehouse). It is also Europe’s largest tobacco storage point. Antwerp is Europe’s largest

export hub for sugar (over half of all exports) and boasts the largest dedicated sugar warehouse with a capacity of 260,000 tonnes. The city is also home to Europe’s

largest chemical cluster and world’s second largest aſter Houston. Despite these impressive

statistics, though, competition in the whole Hamburg-Le Havre Range is fierce. Rotterdam is overall Antwerp’s main competitor, but other ports also compete hard for specific cargoes. However, says Dillen, “Antwerp

is confident that, thanks to its enormous cargo-generating abilities and being the largest export hub in Europe, it will continue to be a leader in north- west Europe. And our specific relationship with the UK is based much more on collaboration than competition.”

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