Throughput at Antwerp-Bruges port fell in the first nine months of 2023 as geopolitical and economic instability hit demand for container traffic and steel volumes dropped, the port said on Tuesday.
Global port congestion after the COVID-19 pandemic had added more stress to already strained supply chains and kept freight rates elevated into 2022, but container trade flows are now falling as the economy comes under pressure amid higher interest rates and sluggish demand.
The port of Antwerp-Bruges, home to Europe's largest integrated chemical cluster, recorded a 6% year-on-year drop in throughput between January and September to 204.4 million metric tons, with a 6.5% drop in container traffic in tonnage terms.
"The competitiveness of European industry is under pressure due to high energy, raw materials and labour costs combined with low global demand," Chief Executive Officer Jacques Vandermeiren said in statement.
He added that there was no indication of an improvement in the near future and container throughput would continue to be affected in the fourth quarter by the cancellation of voyages from the Far East.
While conventional breakbulk shipping held up well with volumes in line with pre-pandemic levels, throughput of steel, the main commodity group within the segment, declined by 17.6% on falling European production and lower demand.
The Port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest sea port, said earlier this month that its throughput had declined by 6% in the first nine months of the year, hit by a drop in the transport of coal and a fall in container freight.
(Reuters - Reporting by Diana Mandiá; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)