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Shortsea Shipping sets a new record in the Flemish ports with almost 145 million tonnes handled

Date: 20/04/2016

With 144,888,087 tonnes, shortsea traffic increased with over 2 million of total tonnage handled in the 4 Flemish ports (1.4% in 2015 compared to 2014 (142,860,448 tonnes)).

With 98,810,471 tonnes of shortsea cargo (import and export), Antwerp is the main catalyst of SSS growth. Compared to 2014, there was a strong increase of 4,693,025 tonnes (+4.99%) across all goods categories.

With 16,125,186 tonnes of shortsea cargo, the port of Ghent experienced a drop of 1,350,467 tonnes (-7.73%) compared to 2014. With 28,679,484 tonnes, Zeebrugge showed a decrease of 3.93% or 1,172,596 tonnes less cargo handled. The port of Ostend’s shortsea traffic dropped back to 1,272,946 tonnes (-10%)

Global traffic consists of 56% import cargo (+2.7% compared to 2014) and 44% export cargo (relatively stable). Only Zeebrugge performs better in terms of export than import.

The percentage share of shortsea in the total cargo handled (shortsea and deep sea) obviously differs from port to port. Ostend scores almost 100%. Antwerp, situated further inland, has 47.41% of shortsea freight. Ghent and Zeebrugge reach 61.17% and 74.85% respectively. The major importance of shortsea shipping for the four Flemish ports is illustrated by its share of no less than 52.80% in the total maritime tonnage handled. Both in tonnage and in percentage it is therefore more important than the deep sea traffic. In the previous record year 2014 it amounted to exactly 53.13%. All this means that shortsea is increasingly embedding itself in our ports.

The record tonnage of almost 145 million tonnes in 2015 and no less than 63.7% growth since 1999 also confirm that shortsea shipping has become a durable part of the European transport chain.

Globally, for all 4 ports, and segmented according to type of cargo (in tonnes) containers represent the largest group with 39.9%, followed by liquid bulk 31.5%, dry bulk 13%, ro-ro 11.2% and mixed cargo 4.4%.

Compared to 2014 the tonnage of liquid bulk showed a global increase of 7.4%, that of ro-ro 3.6% (as opposed to a slight loss in 2014 compared to 2013) and that of conventional cargo 3.2% (in 2014 -5% compared to 2013). The container traffic in tonnes decreased by 2.4%, which can be attributed to changes in loops of services to the port of Zeebrugge and the move of a shipping company in Ghent (Antwerp showed growth). Dry bulk lost 2.5%.

As mentioned previously, the Port of Antwerp is the driving force behind the growth figures. Liquid bulk shows the biggest increase, but the other categories (including the containers) also exhibit a, albeit less marked, improvement. Mainly import showed a strong overall increase. A few examples of countries exhibiting growth are the UK (mainly import but also export), Turkey (mainly export), Spain (import), Russia (import), Norway (import and export) and Greece (export). The export to Russia has dropped (EU measures).

The import of dry bulk cargo suffered the greatest loss in the Port of Ghent, whereas the export maintained a status quo. There is a strong increase in import from Russia, but a drop in import from Norway and Latvia. Sweden and Turkey maintain the same level. An important factor that should be taken into account in the industry is the ArcelorMittal blast-furnaces, which were shut down for a long period of time.

Zeebrugge mainly recorded a loss in terms of export. The losses in the containers category are related to changes in loops of round-the-world services. Sweden showed strong results, both in terms of import and export. One of the driving forces towards the UK is ro-ro export with a drop in import. Ireland and Finland perform well in terms of import and export, whereas Spain has not been able to recover in either sector after an important service was lost.

The Port of Ostend shows a slight loss in terms of both import (the majority of SSS traffic) and export. The mixed cargo volume increased in terms of export, which is for a very large part due to the port’s development into a hub for wind farms.

Sea-river traffic is still encountering difficulties. On the Brussels-Scheldt maritime canal 1,022,102 tonnes of shortsea freight were transported (a decrease of -41,127 tonnes or -3.87% compared to 2014). As far as the Albert Canal is concerned, 217,564 tonnes were registered (a drop of 59,893 tonnes or -21.59% compared to 2014). Nevertheless, the sea-river vessels have a distinct advantage: they carry the cargo far inland, often to a loading or unloading facility in the vicinity of the customer.

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