As the largest European integrated cluster for production, storage and distribution of chemical and petrochemical products, the Port of Antwerp offers world-class logistics and storage facilities with unsurpassed operational excellence and customer focus.
The Port of Antwerp has demonstrated some impressive growth figures in the past few years, with excellent results in the highly competitive Hamburg – Le Havre range. Last year brought in the latest confirmation, with a new record freight volume of 223 million tonnes and the container volume passing the 10 million TEU mark for the second time ever.
The container volume was up by 4.3% to 123 million tonnes, or more than 10 million TEU (up 4.1%). The Port of Antwerp managed to significantly improve its position in the Far East, with a consequent boost to its standing in the range.
The liquid bulk volume for its part rose to 73 million tonnes, an increase of 5.7%. The shipping freight volume for the chemical industry remained fairly stable, with the increase being booked mainly in the tank storage segment, in particular for oil products. Liquid bulk is actually the second main driver of freight growth in the Port of Antwerp. The most important factors behind this growth are the location of Antwerp relatively far inland, the presence of the largest integrated chemical and petrochemical cluster in Europe, new, state-of-the-art infrastructure, third-party tank storage companies helping to make Antwerp an increasingly important player in the oil products sector, and the derived trading activities.
There is a reason behind everything
But that is not all. Apart from the scope for investment and the physical space available (green and brownfield opportunities, and the benefits of co-siting), one of the main factors is Antwerp’s place in the various worldwide supply chains. These have undergone significant changes in the past few years, with dramatic alterations in the landscape (or rather, seascape) of international container shipping companies.
Enforced rationalisation has led to new alliances and collaboration arrangements. As a consequence, for the ports, it is more important than ever to be included in the sailing schedules of the big alliances and to consolidate this position. So far, Antwerp has succeeded particularly well.
Just as important for this success is growth in the second main area, namely liquid bulk. The unique interaction of the cluster, the availability of feedstock and intermediaries, excellent synergy through integration of energy and products, the port’s central position in the Antwerp-Rotterdam-Rhine-Ruhr mega-cluster and the European pipeline network, extensive and varied tank storage facilities, excellent production facilities and Antwerp’s status as the main European hub for polymers... all these make Antwerp the largest European integrated cluster for production, storage and distribution of chemical and petrochemical products.
New investments in the pipeline
In 2017, too, the Port of Antwerp has proven to be an important hub for the chemical and petrochemical industry – and an important production site as well. Renowned companies in the industry have announced comprehensive investments in their Antwerp-based facilities. The chemical giant Evonik plans to invest many millions in increasing its production capacities for specialty silicates.
Also, the specialty chemicals group LANXESS is planning extensive production expansions. For example, they intend to increase the efficiency of its caprolactam plant for 25 million euros and the production capacities for rubber chemicals for five million euros.
Moreover, the petroleum refinery Total, together with its logistics partner SEA-invest, will invest 100 million euros in a major capacity expansion in the Port of Antwerp, including eight new tanks of 20,000M3 each, three additional loading and unloading stations and a direct pipeline between the terminal and Total’s refinery.
The Port of Antwerp considers these investments as an important confirmation that the conditions at the port are in line with the interests and needs of companies in the chemical and petrochemical industry.
Together with these investments by the private sector, the Antwerp Port Authority also invests, facilitating further development of this world-leading chemical platform. In addition to ongoing improvements to the general conditions, the Port Authority focuses on facilitating the necessary energy transfers, with the emphasis on heat clustering, exploiting co-siting opportunities, wind farms, waste heat recovery, CO2 recycling and bio-based chemistry.
Energy & Chemistry Team
It has also invested in expertise and has set up an Energy & Chemistry Team. These experts are there to assist existing companies in the cluster along with potential new customers and investors, with a single point of contact. They are ready with information and support in areas such as regulations, permits, subsidies, opportunities for integration, etc.
Investing in the future also means ensuring a constant supply of qualified personnel. Here the Port of Antwerp can call upon the highly qualified graduates and technicians who emerge from the dense cluster of colleges and universities in Belgium and the surrounding region.
The excellent qualifications, multilingual skills and high productivity of personnel are just some of the HR factors that contribute to the strength of the chemical industry in Antwerp and Belgium.
But future-oriented policy also demands physical space in which to expand. The Port of Antwerp has room for sustainable growth for a number of large investment projects.
Moreover, this concern for sustainability is no sudden enthusiasm, witness the Sustainability Report published every two years by the Antwerp port community. Indeed, Antwerp is one of the very few ports, if not the only one, to have a sustainability report published by the port community as a whole. For almost a decade now, this Sustainability Report has given shape to its ambition of being the most sustainable port in Europe.
Port of Antwerp: Sustainable Polymer Hub
Antwerp is the main polymer hub in Europe for production, handling and distribution of plastic pellets. Every year, millions of pellets find their way via Antwerp to other hubs in Europe. Preventing these small plastic pellets getting into the water, or anywhere else where those are not wanted is a top priority in all these activities.
The companies in the port have long taken various initiatives to prevent the loss of pellets, but now the entire sector has taken the game to a whole new level. Manufacturing industry, logistics operators and the transport sector are putting their weight behind ‘Operation Clean Sweep’. Antwerp is the first port in Europe that signed up for this programme, an initiative of PlasticsEurope. In practical terms, a ‘Zero Pellet Loss’ consultative platform has been set up in Antwerp to organise measures for keeping the loss of pellets to an absolute minimum.
“Sustainable enterprise is now deep in the genes of our port companies,” says port alderman Marc Van Peel. “They work hard in all sectors to reconcile people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. The signing of this charter is the best proof of the great importance attached to this subject in the world of plastics,” added Van Peel.
Operation Clean Sweep© is an international programme supported by PlasticsEurope, with the aim of preventing plastic litter materials getting into the marine environment. Companies that join this programme undertake to help achieve zero pellet loss. Antwerp is the first port in Europe that signed up for the programme. “The fact that all players in the polymer logistics chain are prepared to take part in this programme is key to its success – collaboration gives the best guarantee of obtaining good results,” said Van Peel.
Zero Pellet Loss
As part of Operation Clean Sweep, the Zero Pellet Loss initiative is being organised by Antwerp Port Authority, essenscia (federation of the chemical, plastics and life sciences industries), Voka Chamber of Commerce Antwerp-Waasland: Industry Platform and Alfaport, and PlasticsEurope.
The main challenge of this project is to reduce the loss of pellets to the absolute minimum. However, the companies in the port are not starting from scratch. Various initiatives have already been taken in the past to prevent the loss of pellets. Wide-scale clean-up operations were organised in the port area at the beginning of this year. But to make further progress, it is necessary to adopt an approach that covers the whole port and the whole sector.
Weekly monitoring will be done to discover the places where plastics can be found in the environment, so that the pollution can be traced to its source and action taken to prevent it. An incident manager will keep watch on pollution and take action to clear it up whenever necessary. The costs of all this will be shared among the various participants.