On the other hand, the slowdown in the world economy cut the growth rate of more volatile trade flows like conventional breakbulk, liquid bulk and vehicles. However, the volume of dry bulk such as scrap metal, minerals and coal grew by 9.5%.

Container volume continues to expand

The 5.7% growth of container freight is by far the largest category in the port of Antwerp. This growth can mainly be seen in the transhipment of containers, but the container volume is also expanding due to more imports and exports.

"The uncertainty in world trade has not yet had any impact on our container volume. In fact it is continuing to expand, thus further consolidating our world leadership position. As a consequence we are continuing to develop additional freight transport to the hinterland by rail and barge."

explained Port of Antwerp CEO, Jacques Vandermeiren.

Breakbulk impacted

Ups and downs in world trade are continuing to affect breakbulk freight flows, leading in an overall fall of 9%. The conventional breakbulk volume, with steel as the main category, faced a fall of 12.9%. Both imports and exports of steel are experiencing the consequences of geopolitical measures more and more, restricting the flow of trade.

The total Ro/Ro volume for its part contracted by 2.1%, with the number of new cars handled reducing by 10%. On the contrary, the decline was partly balanced by an increased volume of second-hand cars, with growth of 12%.

Dry bulk growing

The dry bulk volume for its part grew 9.5% over nine months. During this period, five times as much coal was shipped as in the same period last year. The strong rise in the volume of coal was partly because of a temporary shift in transport routes as a result of low water levels in the Rhine.

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This was highlighted by traders stocking up, given the prospect of higher coal prices in the coming months. The other dry bulk categories, like fertilisers which were the highest performer in 2018, are coming under heavy pressure and are trending downwards.

Fluctuations in liquid bulk

Liquid bulk fell 6.2% by the end of the third quarter, with the crude oil volume rising by 5.5%. s for chemicals, experienced a  growth of 5.7% by the end of the second quarter, and they contracted again so that by the end of September they were at practically the same level, up by only 0.8%.

Oil derivatives also saw a slack month in August, causing an overall decline of 9.5% by the end of the third quarter. However, the refinery-bound volumes remained relatively stable, despite the volumes regarding trading activities, which performed rather poorly.

In addition, a slowdown in economic growth and fluctuating oil prices with a downwards trend caused uncertainty among traders, with little rotation. But there are positive signals,as the chemical giant BASF recently announced an investment of 550 million euros in additional production capacity at its Antwerp site.

Seagoing ships on course

10,814 seagoing ships called at Antwerp during the past nine months. The gross tonnage of ships berthing in the port fell slightly by 0.8%, at 313 million GT.

"Port of Antwerp keeps on growing. The recent call by the MSC Isabella is a new record as the largest container ship ever to call at Antwerp. Proof that our port offers safe and easy access to megamax container carriers with deep draught. In this way we continue our sustainable growth because large ships like these significantly lower carbon emission per shipped container."

concluded port alderman Annick De Ridder.

port of antwerp