Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ferry and Container Traffic Thrives as European Ports Report Freight Quantities Up

Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Stockholm Set Records for 2016
Shipping News Feature
UK – BELGIUM – SWEDEN – In a sign of the continuing strength of exports to and from Britain during 2016, P&O Ferries has announced that it handled more freight units at its principal continental hub at Zeebrugge than in any year since it began operations from the Belgian port in 1966. The ferry group handled 420,000 freight units at Zeebrugge last year. This figure surpasses the previous record of 398,650, which was set in 2015, by more than 5%. Contrary to some analysts’ expectations that the Brexit referendum in June would adversely affect trade, volumes were evenly split between the first and second halves of the year.

From its Zeebrugge hub, P&O Ferries operates services across the North Sea to Tilbury, Hull and Teesport respectively; it also operates incoming rail services to the Belgian port from Central and Eastern Europe. The terminal was enlarged by 14 hectares at the end of last year, so that it now comprises a fourth berth and significantly enhanced rail infrastructure which will almost double annual capacity to 700,000 freight units. Janette Bell, Managing Director of P&O Ferries, said:

"This robust performance shows that structural demand from continental exporters to Britain is continuing to increase and that our hub at Zeebrugge is the key gateway to ports along the east coast."

Staying with Belgium the Port of Antwerp will close out 2016 with an expected record volume of more than 214 million tonnes of freight handled. For its part shipping container volume has risen above 10 million TEU for the first time in the history of the port. Liquid bulk is also showing year-on-year expansion with an estimated volume of just under 70 million tonnes. However both conventional breakbulk and dry bulk sectors are down, primarily due to reduced demand for coal and ore in Europe and containerisation of items such as fruit.

The handled container volume rose by 4.1% during the past 12 months and ended the year at 117,979,180 tonnes. In terms of the number of containers, this represents 10,056,603 TEU, an increase of 4.2%. Antwerp attributes this increase to an expansion of its market share at the expense of competitors like Hamburg and Rotterdam.

The number of seagoing ships calling at Antwerp rose by 0.7% in 2016: by 31 December 2016 a total of 14,523 ships had visited Antwerp. Apart from the increased number of ships the growth in gross tonnage also rose, up 9.5% to 402,665,000 GT. This figure illustrates clearly how ships visiting Antwerp are getting bigger and bigger, in 2016 Antwerp welcomed 458 container carriers of 13,000 TEU or more, whereas in 2015 the number in this category was only 320.

Meanwhile in Sweden, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, a new record has been set for the number of containers transported to the Container Terminal at Frihamnen, Port of Stockholm. At the beginning of December 2016 Ports of Stockholm had shipped 54,000 TEU as compared to the previous record set at Frihamnen of just over 51,000 TEU in 2015. Henrik Widerståhl, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Marketing at Ports of Stockholm said:

“It is extremely positive that the number of containers has increased at Frihamnen as we are simultaneously building a new freight port that in the future will account for a major portion of the supply of goods to the rapidly growing Stockholm region.”

Ports of Stockholm is currently building the new port to the south of Stockholm, the Stockholm Norvik Port, which is anticipated to open in 2020 and will have a draught of 16.5 m (the maximum for the Baltic Sea). The Stockholm Norvik Port will make it possible to transport goods by sea as close to the country’s largest consumer area as possible. This results in major environmental benefits and simultaneously reduces the pressure on Sweden’s already congested road and railway networks.