Antwerp could be Europe’s next China rail freight destination
Steel could be the key to making the Port of Antwerp the next major European cargo hub with a direct rail freight link with China. Port officials signed a cooperation agreement with the Chinese Port of Caofeidian, with both countries’ Prime Ministers present to underline a formal partnership under the One Belt One Road project.
Caofedian, a young but fast growing port in northern China’s Bohai Bay, handled 260 million tonnes of goods last year, including 36 million tonnes of steel. Antwerp is Europe’s main steel handling port, and the two ports already trade between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes via sea every year. They are now investigating the feasibility of creating a dedicated rail link, and have also pledged to work closely on promoting business activities and sharing information.
China’s One Belt One Road project was formally launched in 2013, and is designed to build new and extend existing economic trade opportunities with the rest of Asia, the Middle East and, in this case, Europe. Various rail freight services are already operating between China and western Europe, with Sweden the latest to launch a service.
The agreement between the two ports, which was signed in Val Duchesse Castle near Brussels, will also see a training module developed by the APEC-Antwerp / Flanders Port Training Centre later this year, aimed at benefiting port professionals in Caofedian. APEC has also just held a seminar on intermodality, focusing on all aspects of rail logistics in Belgium, Europe and abroad. It also covered the relationship between port operations and transport by train, and the management and operation of inland intermodal terminals.
The Port of Antwerp has a total steel capacity of more than 10 million tonnes. All of its steel terminals are trimodal, providing some 150 intermodal container trains to more than 20 destinations in eight countries every year.