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Port of Brussels waterway traffic up 3%

 - ©SPRB (Marcel Vanhulst)

2015-01-30 - Waterway traffic at the Port of Brussels progressed positively during 2014, with a 3% increase in the Port’s own traffic (goods loaded and unloaded in Brussels). Overall traffic grew to a lesser extent (+ 1%), due to a slight decrease of 2% in transit traffic.

Overall traffic was nearly 6.7 million tonnes in 2014, including the Port’s own traffic of almost 4.5 million tonnes. This waterway traffic has a significant impact on mobility and the environment in Brussels: it is estimated thatit means nearly 625,000 fewer trucks in and around Brussels, delivering a saving of 97,000 tonnes of CO2 and 24.5 million euros of external costs.

The growth in the Port’s own traffic and in the building materials category is mainly due to the sharp increase in soil exports, which quadrupled compared with 2013. Efforts by the Port Authority to diversify Port traffic have thus been rewarded, bringing about an increase in traffic at a time when economic conditions in the euro zone remain sluggish. Although the Port recorded a decrease in the petroleum products category, this is explained by a return to more normal weather conditions in 2014 after a particularly harsh winter in 2013.

Moving towards a recovery in container activity

It will be recalled that successive changes of operator at the container terminal led to an 18% fall in activity in 2013 compared with 2012. These negative results are starting to be turned around. There were clear signs of a recovery in the operation of the terminal in 2014, the 4% downturn being accounted for by circumstances over which the operator has no control, including several interruptions to navigation between Brussels and Antwerp.

It is also worth noting that these interruptions, due in particular to major maintenance work on the lock at Zemst and the technical problems with the bridge at Vilvoorde, also affected transit traffic, whereas the Brussels operators were able to plan their logistical flows around the navigation interruptions, most of which were scheduled.

A net increase in outflows

Although goods imports were down 7% on 2013, an exceptional increase of 68% was recorded in exports, mainly due to the export of soil and to a lesser extent to the export of waste glass, which continues to increase from year to year, as well as to scrap metal. Here, too, the efforts of the Port Authority to develop return logistics are bearing fruit and rebalancing flows in favour of exports. Among other things, this should improve the competitiveness of inland waterway transport by reducing the number of empty return trips for the vessels serving Brussels.

The Chairman of the Port of Brussels has stressed the solid future prospects for transport by the waterway: ‘These good figures should encourage us to pursue the development of Port activities in Brussels. In addition, we have plans for some new flows for the year 2015, which should enable us to continue this positive momentum in favour of inland waterway transport. As the new Chairman of the Port of Brussels, I am committed to devoting all my energy to the development of the Port.’

The Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, who is responsible for the Port of Brussels, commented: ‘I congratulated the Port of Brussels for a positive 2014, and in particular for the efforts made to promote the development of new traffic via the waterways. At a time when my government is working on regeneration in Brussels, and specifically in the Canal Area, I am convinced that major future construction projects in Brussels will need to reflect this development and make large-scale use of the waterways for both construction supplies and the disposal of excavated soil.’