Antwerp Port Authority is focused on solving the problem of inland barge congestion – and to this end is planning to “sit around the table again” to look at strategies.
In Q2 2017, all port stakeholders joined forces to try and solve this issue. There have been regular workshops and a focus on better planning, such as ensuring information arrives earlier for barge and terminal operators. One major initiative is to ensure a minimum of 30 containers are on barges heading for Antwerp’s deepsea terminals, to allow the barge to better organise unloading and loading.
As part of this consolidation hubs have been installed outside and inside the terminals.
But Antwerp Port Authority director of international relations Luc Arnouts says “It is a nice concept of consolidation to increase efficiency, but it remains a difficult one [inland barge congestion]. The minimum call size on its own is not solving the problem of congestion, we need to evaluate this and sit round the table again.”
He explains “At the container terminals, deepsea container ships get priority as they need to be handled in their windows of time, and barges are often the victim of that.”
To solve this, he says that the port authority might have to think about dedicated barge quays and berths and further increase volumes for consolidation.
Port of Antwerp had a strong year in 2018 – it saw a year-on-year 6.2% increase in its deepsea box volumes, hitting 11.1M TEU.
Mr Arnouts puts it down to the growth of ship size and the subsequent increase in demand for a “cargo generating” port.
He says “The scale and size of ships are increasing. These big ships need cargo volumes and cargo generating ports are outperforming ports that have less cargo generation. We have a very large integrated chemical cluster, ships are coming to the port where there is a huge industry, which gives us cargo generating power.”
Furthermore, he points out that Antwerp’s captive area is “much bigger” than the port itself due to its links to the hinterland. “Bigger ships prefer big hubs that can guarantee cargo flow. That is why the biggest ports outperformed mid-sized ports,” he sums up.