Port of Antwerp overcomes loss of Russian ships

The port of Antwerp is adapting to the loss of maritime traffic with Russia and its merger with the neighboring port of Zeebrugge should increase overall volumes in the coming years, the group’s chief executive said on Thursday.

Global shipping companies, including major container companies, have severed trade relations with Russia due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of Western sanctions. Although shipments of food and medical products are still allowed, overall exports to Russia have been affected due to limited freight options.

Russia has been an important trading partner for the port of Antwerp and exports to Russia accounted for 5 million tonnes out of the 240 million tonnes of international shipping volume handled each year, said port CEO Jacques Vandermeiren.

“This (volume) will not come back in the months or even years to come,” he told Reuters. “We will lose for sure this year 4 to 5 million tons in total.”

Restrictions imposed by the European Union led to a ban on the import of Russian steel to Antwerp, which had already been replaced by volumes from other countries such as South Korea, Turkey and India, a he declared.

Russian naphtha imports to Antwerp have not been affected so far.

“I can imagine that in the coming weeks this will most likely be reduced but not completely banned and then we will see, as with steel, a shift in Russian naphtha from other places,” he said.

Last week, the cities of Antwerp and Bruges completed the merger of their respective ports – Antwerp and Zeebrugge – which they say created Europe’s largest export terminal and is now called Antwerp-Bruges .

Vandermeiren added that the new group expected to grow “as a hub port” with combined volumes close to 300 million tonnes per year.

“It won’t happen overnight,” he said.

Vandermeiren said recent closures in parts of China due to a resurgence of COVID-19 were adding pressure on supply chains, with global port congestion expected to continue after a year of unrest hitting shipping by containers, which transports consumer goods.

“2022 will again be a very difficult year with a lot of congestion, with higher prices on containers (freight), with long waiting times and difficulties in the hinterland with trucks and rail”, did he declare. “It’s the same old song again.”

(Reuters – Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Matthew Lewis)