Port of Antwerp hits 1 million reefer containers for second year in a row

Port of Antwerp hits 1 million reefer containers for second year in a row

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Port of Antwerp hits 1 million reefer containers for second year in a row

Growth within Port of Antwerp's cold chain segment continued to increase in 2021, despite the widespread and unprecedented challenges in the global supply chain.

The total number of reefer containers handled in the port of Antwerp increased by 2.7 percent in 2021 compared to 2020. The 1 million TEU mark of operational reefer containers has been passed for the second year in a row now.

The growth was mainly driven by a 6 percent increase in export volumes. Some 60 percent of the containers handled in the Port of Antwerp are destined for export. The share of reefer container volumes (in TEUs) is 8.2 percent of the total container traffic in the port.

“Our eating habits have a positive bearing on reefer rates. Meal boxes with fresh produce are becoming increasingly popular," Port of Antwerp's Perishables Expertise Group said.

"Moreover, supermarkets are exploring ways they can deliver fresh groceries to the customers' homes. This phenomenon is already popular in the United Kingdom and is expected to blow over to Belgium. Many consumers are consciously choosing a plant-based diet and are looking for an expanded range of fruits, vegetables and meat substitutes. Preferably all year round."

What stands out in the annual figures is the increase in conventional reefer volumes. Total conventional volume increased by 6% compared to 2020. Before the coronavirus crisis, there was a huge drop in the use of conventional reefer vessels, as the majority of perishables were transported in reefer containers.

As of 2020, it was again profitable to deploy reefer vessels in liner shipping due to the high rates in container liner shipping. Do conventional reefers still have a future?

“The current fleet of conventional reefer ships was competed out of the market before the health crisis because of their high bunker costs," the Perishables Expertise Group said.

"However, this type of vessel fits perfectly within the current system of refrigerated storage and cross-docking. Since these vessels can be loaded and unloaded quickly and the infrastructure lends itself to it, a new and environmentally friendly generation of conventional reefer vessels could once again play a significant role in the future."

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