The port of Antwerp
The port of Antwerp is a place of superlatives. Although it is “only” the European number two in terms of cargo volume and the global number 17 behind Rotterdam, it is also the world’s largest port for general cargo, the world’s second largest chemical industry park and the world’s largest lock. The Port of Antwerp also manages to break its own records time and again and to increase the volume of cargo year after year.
It is interesting to note that the port in the Belgian metropolis is located 80 kilometres from the sea and yet can still be navigated by deep-sea vessels. The special importance of the port of Antwerp lies in its location. If you draw a circle around the port, you will find around 60 percent of the purchasing power of the entire European Union within a radius of only 500 kilometers. With Amsterdam or The Hague, Paris, Brussels, London and Luxembourg, five European capitals are located in the immediate vicinity.
In addition, there are the important conurbations of Randstad (Netherlands) and Rhine-Ruhr with their enormous economic power. Together with Brussels and Mechelen, Antwerp forms a continuous metropolitan area with two motorways and one of Europe’s busiest railway lines.
The port also plays a major role in the cityscape. Since bridges would impede shipping, traffic is mainly operated through tunnels under the Scheldt. It is only in Temse that Belgium’s longest bridge, at 365 meters, is located – and thus about 20 kilometers upstream.
History of the Port of Antwerp
Antwerp or Anvers, as the city is called in French, measures barely more than half a million inhabitants. Nevertheless, in terms of its historical significance, the Belgian city is on a par with all the world’s major cities. In the 15th and 16th centuries it was one of the largest cities in the world and the most important commercial metropolis in Europe. Artists such as Peter Paul Rubens worked here, the Olympic Games were held here and the worldwide diamond trade still has its centre here today.
The importance of the port of Antwerp was already enormous during the Middle Ages. In the history books the place landed in the Netherlands against Spain mainly because of the war of independence. The Spaniards had conquered the port of Antwerp in 1585 and the Netherlands then blocked the Scheldt. This resulted in a temporary loss of importance, which was only ended in 1815 when the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded and the blockade lifted.
Belgium became independent in 1831 and in 1863 free passage through the Scheldt was achieved. At that time, the port of Antwerp was still on the right bank of the Scheldt, with Napoleon providing for an expansion.
The port of Antwerp acquired its present appearance and importance with the advent of container shipping. The port area gradually expanded and now borders directly on the neighbouring Netherlands. More than half of the goods handled are containerised.
The port of Antwerp today
Today the port of Antwerp covers an area of approximately 130 square kilometres. A little more than 72 square kilometres lie on the right bank of the Scheldt, the rest on the left. The Kieldrecht lock, which is the largest dock lock in the world, is remarkable. Situated on the left bank of the Scheldt, the lock offers a length of 500 metres with a width of 68 metres.
Tourists enjoy the works of the graffiti artist Cazn, who painted or sprayed 300 metres. The Kieldrecht lock was opened in 2016 after the Berendrecht lock had already been opened in 1989. It is located on the right bank of the Scheldt.
On both banks of the Scheldt there is a whole host of different terminals, which underline the versatility of the port of Antwerp. In addition to the container capacities, the Vrasendock, with a length of around four and a half kilometres, is worthy of mention, where mainly cars, wood and wood products and fruit juice concentrates are handled. The container ships arrive at Deurganckdok, where the Antwerp Gateway container terminal is also located.
One of the location factors that make the port of Antwerp so attractive is its location within Europe. Not only are many major cities nearby – there are also excellent connections.
Since 2018, a direct railway line has been operating between the Swiss town of Frenkendorf and the Belgian city or its port. Frenkendorf is the location of the Swissterminals and is in turn connected to Milan and Zurich. Furthermore, there are connections to Neuss in Germany, which means that the port of Rotterdam and of course the Rhine as well as rail connections within Germany can also be reached.
There are also rail connections to the Netherlands, France, Austria and Hungary. The Antwerp Port Authority has already announced that it intends to increase the share of rail for hinterland transport to around 15 percent.
In 2017, the modal split, i.e. the distribution of traffic volume, showed a truck share of 52 percent and 56 percent in container traffic. Inland waterways transported 37 percent and 38 percent of the total volume, while railways took eight and six percent respectively, but are considered to be particularly promising for the future.
Port of Antwerp figures
The figures for the port of Antwerp are impressive. More than 300 liner services are offered by ship, serving some 800 destinations worldwide. The annual turnover amounts to around 224 million tonnes, the number of jobs directly linked to the port is 143,000, and the added value amounts to around 20 billion euros annually.
Other figures that illustrate the size of the port of Antwerp are the more than 14,000 calls by seagoing vessels each year, including a number of large container ships.
The current trend (as of 2019) shows a noticeable growth in the container shipping sector. Considerable growth has been recorded in trade with the Far East in particular, and the trade in used cars is also booming. Bulk goods such as coal and scrap metal also increased, while liquid bulk goods and mineral oil lost ground.
Wie ist der Hafen Antwerpen organisiert?
Verwaltet wird der Hafen Antwerpen von der Antwerp Port Authority, bei der es sich um eine NV van publiek recht oder auf Deutsch eine Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung des öffentlichen Rechts handelt.
Alleiniger Eigentümer ist die Stadt Antwerpen, die zum Zweck der Hafenverwaltung rund 1.500 Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter beschäftigt.