Antwerp popular as perishables hub

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Feb 23, 2017: Temperature controlled perishables such as fruit, vegetables, chocolate, seafood and potato products are increasingly finding their way to market via the port of Antwerp. This freight category has experienced strong growth in the past few years.

Last year the port of Antwerp handled 9 million tonnes of perishables, both containerised and conventional.

At the largest fruit trade exhibition in the world, Fruit Logistica in Berlin, Antwerp Port Authority and eleven specialist companies from Antwerp displayed their know how and can do in the fruit segment.

“As a perishables hub Antwerp offers an attractive combination of logistical advantages for various important overseas product regions," says Maartje Driessens, business development manager with Antwerp Port Authority. "We are the first European port of call for many operators, with specialist storage facilities and value added activities. Furthermore we offer rapid customs clearance in combination with phytosanitary services."

The development of this hub function ensured that growth of 1.2 million tonnes was recorded in this segment between 2014 and 2016. In total Antwerp handled 9 million tonnes of temperature controlled goods last year, both as conventional freight and in containers. The latter category is expanding rapidly, with much fruit no longer being carried in bulk but in reefer containers instead.

Containerisation of fruit carriers has been trending sharply up in the past few years. In February the port of Antwerp welcomed the first ship in the reefer container service operated by CMA CGM to Martinique and Guadeloupe, from where the major Caribbean fruit producing regions are covered. This is already the third reefer container service in two years welcomed by Belgian New Fruit Wharf (BNFW), after Maersk and Hamburg-Süd. For these services also, Antwerp is the first port of call.  

As the end of last year Antwerp was visited by the Seatrade Orange, the new vessel operated by Africa Express Line (AEL) on its maiden trip. This marked the entry of the Compagnie Fruitiere group into the reefer container world, with monthly shipments of fruit from West Africa to Europe.

In order to offer the best possible conditions for these specialist goods, the freight handlers and logistics service providers are investing in temperature controlled storage and handling facilities. Specialist companies offer value added services at various locations in the port, such as quality control, packaging or repackaging, ripening units etc.

Antwerp Cold Store built a new, state of the art refrigeration and deep freezing complex last year on the Left bank of the Scheldt. This offers a total of 32,000 square meter of refrigerated and deep freeze storage, with 8,000 pallet spaces for deep frozen products and 7,500 for refrigerated storage. The Sea invest subsidiary BNFW for its part has expansion plans for perishables with the recent takeover of Independent Marine Terminal.

The Belgian Fruit Auction, the largest Belgian organisation for fruit growers, plans to expand its location on the Left bank by 10 hectares with construction of a new warehouse and refrigerated units. This expansion will ensure that export fruit destined mainly for China, North Africa and India can make its way quickly via Antwerp.

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