BRUSSELS: Belgium’s Port of Antwerp registered a 7.5% year-on-year increase in refrigerated containers and perishable goods in 2017, thanks partly to boosted connections with Africa and Latin America.
With a total of 9.7 million metric tons (MT) of the cargo handled, Europe’s second-largest seaport “continues the positive development of the past few years as a preferred perishables hub,” it said.
Anticipating further increases, port service providers are expanding infrastructure and introducing innovations such as blockchain technology and sustainable transport concepts.
“The continuing growth of reefer traffic via the Port of Antwerp confirms that the range of transhipment and extended services for perishable goods offer real added value to the market. We are approaching the 10 million tons mark, which we hope to exceed next year,” said perishables business development manager Maartje Driessens.
Last year the port added or expanded connections to West Africa, including Cameroon, Côte d’ Ivoire, Ghana and Morocco, and Latin America, including Ecuador, Chile and Peru.
Additionally, the Levante Express of MSC has been further improved and now offers a direct connection to Beirut as well as optimized transit times between Antwerp and Turkey and Italy. The Antwerp fruit hub is also offering new transport solutions. For example, ECU Worldwide, Antwerp’s largest consolidator, has recently introduced a special reefer service for smaller cargo sizes between Europe and the U.S.
“Service providers are focusing in particular on the sustainable modal shift from road to rail and inland waterway transport,” the port authority said.
“At the end of 2017, Remant Cool Logistics began transporting frozen Belgian fries in reefer containers by barge from the Belgian factory to the Port of Antwerp, which will save around 8,000 truck runs per year.
“The wholesale organisation Group De Witte, which imports pineapples from Costa Rica via Antwerp, has also shifted the onward transportation of reefer containers to their final destination in Brussels by barge.”
The port authority and its service providers are also involved in new technologies of the global supply chain. Specific projects in the field of perishables include Foodcareplus, which is developing a food logistics and transport platform that combines blockchain technology and modern monitoring systems in an all-in-one solution.
“As a result, the food supply chain not only gains transparency and reliability, but also offers the highest degree of security. In order to further optimize processes, the platform will be open not only to customers but also to other participants in the supply chain, such as quality inspectors and food safety regulators,” it said.