Port of Antwerp-Bruges breakbulk throughput beats geopolitical pressure
Port of Antwerp-Bruges has seen its breakbulk volumes edge up from record volumes in 2021. Conventional breakbulk was up 1.1 percent, reaching 12.4 million tonnes in 2022.
Conventional breakbulk held up well in the first half of the year due to growth in the throughput of steel, the main commodity group within this segment. Starting in the third quarter, steel volumes declined as a result of the slowing economy.
Total roll-on/roll-off traffic saw an increase of 6.5 percent. More than 3.26 million new cars were handled in 2022, an annualised growth of 10.5 percent. Throughput of ‘high & heavy’ rolling stock increased by 9.6 percent, while throughput of used cars and trucks decreased by 13.2 percent and 17 percent respectively. Unaccompanied cargo (excluding containers) grew 10.0 percent, a significant portion of which was related to the United Kingdom (+4.9 percent) and Ireland (+35 percent).
Overall throughput blips below 2021 levels
2022 was a year of challenges for Port of Antwerp-Bruges. Geopolitical tensions, the energy crisis and ongoing disruptions in supply chains made their presence felt and, in addition to shifts within the various commodity flows, put sustained pressure on the container segment. This affected throughput, which was down 0.7 percent year-on-year to 286.9 million tons of cargo. However, the flood of new investments and projects confirms the attractiveness of the unified port and the added value of the complementarity of the two port platforms.
The challenges were most palpable in container traffic. Global disruptions within container shipping, and the resulting congestion with peak call sizes and delays, put pressure on volumes throughout the year. In addition, the conflict in Ukraine caused a decrease in Russia-related traffic by 59 percent. And while operational challenges at container terminals and congestion have been slowly easing since the third quarter, high energy prices and economic uncertainty have caused a slowdown in demand for container traffic. As a result, container throughput fell 8.6 percent in tons and 5.2 percent in TEUs in 2022, compared with a strong 2021, back to pre-pandemic levels.