The first meeting of the Port of Antwerp Covid-19 Taskforce was held this morning, attended by key players in the organisation of the port. They confirmed that keeping the port operational is a shared priority, and expressed their full commitment to the operation of the port and thus to keeping the country supplied. At the meeting a port monitor presented an overview of the situation.
The taskforce is multidisciplinary and cross-border. Also the Dutch Common Nautical Management is represented because it controls access via the Scheldt. The various players in the overall organisation of the port also participate, so as to obtain a full picture of port operations. These include Port of Antwerp, Alfaport-Voka, ASV, Cepa, ESPO, Essenscia, Antwerp Fire Department, Antwerp Shipping Police, the agency for Maritime Services & Coast (MDK), Vlaamse Waterweg (waterway operator), Customs & Excise, the cabinet of Flemish minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Port platform is operational
At the moment the port platform is operational and there are no insurmountable problems. Handling on the terminals is going ahead normally, there is sufficient manpower available to deal with cargo, and drivers are arriving and departing without too much delay. On the other hand the taskforce defined several points for attention which are being monitored. These include:
The different approaches of Belgium and the Netherlands. Port of Antwerp is served by Flemish and Dutch pilots. The Dutch position starts from a controlled contamination, while the Flemish standard is much stricter. MDK is working on an approach in consultation with the Netherlands in which the two types of measures are not contradictory.
Manpower: at the moment everything is under control. The availability and allocation of employees is essential for correct functioning of all port services. In addition, fall-back scenarios are being drawn up to assure continuity of service. The taskforce wishes to expressly thank all those who keep the port running, and commends them for their commitment.
The existing measures were reconfirmed, namely:
Basic preventive hygiene measures
Providing sufficient cleaning aids in machines
Documents are to be exchanged digitally wherever possible, so as to limit human contact to the minimum
Ships' crews and personnel on the quay will mainly communicate at a distance (by radio or telephone)
The rules of social distancing are to be observed as much as possible, in particular by keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between people.
For the rest, it was decided that no new measures need to be taken.
At the moment Port of Antwerp has not seen any decline in the freight volume. However, it is expected that fewer ships will call at the port in the coming days and weeks because of the corona outbreak. 15 fewer large container carriers from Asia will call, corresponding to 115,000 TEU less freight being carried from and to China. The logistics chain is functioning normally and is dealing well with peaks in market demand. The demand for foodstuffs and healthy foods such as bananas has risen, which has led to a rise in imports of these products. Here it is necessary to emphasise the importance of keeping Europe's borders open for all forms of freight transport. Port of Antwerp will monitor the situation continuously, and will continue to react to the demands of logistics operators and terminals.
The Port of Antwerp Covid-19 Taskforce will meet weekly. This frequency will be increased should it become necessary. For more information, please visit our Coronavirus web page.