Corona and Brexit blamed for fall in traffic at Zeebrugge docks

The West Flemish port of Zeebrugge saw traffic fall back by 16.5% during the first quarter of this year. A big fall in the amount of liquid freight passing through the port and a slow start to the year for other kinds of freight were not compensated by a 2.8% increase in the volume of roll-on/roll-off traffic during March. Taking the first quarter as a whole roll-on/roll-off traffic through Zeebrugge was up by almost 7% during the first quarter of 2021.

The impact of Brexit is been greatly felt at Zeebrugge with traffic to and from the UK down by 13%. Meanwhile, traffic to and from Ireland was up by 22%. Traffic volumes to Scandinavia and Southern European countries also increased.

The port has also seen a growth in container traffic. This is up by 26.3% compared with March 2020. The number of cars that passed through the port during the first quarter of 2021 was down by 8%. However, these figures do show the first signs of a recovery.

The port’s CEO Tom Hautekiet was keen to stress to journalists that there was a big surge in traffic to the UK at the end of last year as companies stocked up ahead of Brexit. "The results from the first quarter show that the two shock effects caused by Brexit are cancelling each other out. At the end of last year there was a big increase in traffic and this year there has been a slow start”.  

Mr Hautekiet predicts that liquid bulk levels through the port will not reach the levels they were at in 2020. However, he is more optimistic as regards container traffic, break bulk volumes and roll-on/roll-off traffic. 

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