Geographical position is a key factor in determining the competitiveness of a port. Of all the ports on the North Sea, Antwerp is the most central vis-à-vis the largest European production and consumption centres.
The quality and price of the available overland transport is a decisive factor when a shipper or consignee comes to choosing a port. For this reason, Antwerp has made every effort to build up a good network of communication routes, so that the port’s favourable geographical location can be exploited to the full. As a result, Antwerp offers hundreds of road services, has become the largest European railway port and receives every year almost 59.000 barges.
The 16,000 ships that call in Antwerp every year sail under the flags of close to 100 different countries. The liner business offers 300 regular services to 800 overseas destinations. Every year Antwerp offers roughly 14,000 sailings. Every two months there is at least one sailing to 600 ports scattered throughout the world. Weekly sailings are on offer to no fewer than 325 ports, while there are daily sailings to 50 different ports. Every year foreign ports receive 75,000 calls from ships that sailed from Antwerp. One of the main reasons why so many shipping lines opt for Antwerp is the large volume of general cargo on offer in the port, thus ensuring a profitable return voyage. Shippers of breakbulk and project cargoes value the numerous possibilities for conventional cargo. Whereas in most European port cargoes for certain destination must be containerised, Antwerp will accept virtually all conventional cargoes, regardless of where they are bound to.
Antwerp can boast of excellent handling rates compared to competing ports. Objective studies and reports by ship operators confirm this. Productivity in the port is constantly increasing, and calculations indicate that average annual productivity has grown 5% a year ever since 1975. Antwerp has long been famous for the productivity of its dockworkers. As a main port for the shipment of iron and steel Antwerp’s stevedores can, depending on the unit weight, achieve rates of 1,200 to 5,000 tonnes per gang per shift for coils, 350 to 900 tonnes for tubes and 700 to 1,500 tonnes for steel plate. Container handling speeds are of key importance in Antwerp. On average a working crane in Antwerp’s terminals makes between 200 and 225 moves per shift, and achieves peaks of 300 moves. When equipped with twin spreaders, the newly installed container cranes, suitable for fourth generation container ships, make it possible to achieve an average of 350 moves per shift. 50-tonne cranes are used for discharging bulk, with each crane achieving a rate of about 12,500 tonnes of iron ore per shift. The same rates are achieved for coal. As for non-ferrous ores and other bulk, discharging rates of 4,000 tonnes per shift are achieved using 25-tonne cranes. For grains, discharge rates are about 7,500 tonnes per shift when five suction elevators are deployed. When grain is loaded round the clock, rates of 12,000 tonnes per day are guaranteed. For fertilisers in bulk the discharging rate is about 4,000 to 5,000 tonnes per gang and per shift.
Without doubt Antwerp offers the widest choice of logistic services of all European ports. Its ideal geographic location vis-à-vis the major centres of manufacturing and consumption in Europe and good transport communications with these centres tip the balance in favour of Antwerp. Antwerp can be thought of as a multi-modal platform plugged into corridors and Trans-European networks.