Port of Antwerp: ‘vigilant but ensuring critical supply’
Lockdown or not, the Port of Antwerp is doing everything in its power to remain fully operational. The port employs some 60 000 people and is of the utmost importance for the supply of Belgium and other EU countries. “We are actively working to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus,” says Port of Antwerp.
Last week saw the first meeting of a cross-border and cross-sector task force. The aim is to keep the entire chain running. There will be a new meeting on Thursday.
Participants in the task force are Alfaport-Voka, ASV, Cepa, the Agency for Maritime Services and Coast, the Flemish Waterway, and Customs. The cabinet of the Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), and even the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management) are also taking part in the consultations.
The Port of Antwerp is permanently following the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Union, and the Belgian authorities. All events that are not necessary will be canceled. Visitors can only be admitted to critical workplaces if there is no other option.
Furthermore, all incoming ships must present a document, in which the captain indicates if there were any sick or suspected sick on board 24 hours before arriving in Antwerp. A list of the last ten ports of call is also part of this document. Saniport (FPS Public Health) then screens the ship.
How hard the coronavirus will hit the Port economically is guesswork. “An estimate of the economic consequences is now difficult due to the great uncertainty about the spread of the coronavirus,” said Port officials. In the coming weeks, 15 fewer container ships will arrive from Asia anyway.
Antwerp is the second-largest petrochemical cluster in the world after Houston (USA). Companies such as BASF, Lanxess, Evonik, Exxon Mobil, and Total have a facility there. The chemical sector emphasizes that it wants to keep production at the same level as much as possible. “Many companies supply basic ingredients for pure drinking water, food, medicine, hand soap, and other hygienic protective equipment,” says sector federation Essenscia.
Wherever possible, the teams in the factories running 24/24 and 7/7 will be slightly reduced. If there are any sick people in the groups, emergency teams can still be called in. Some companies have introduced or are considering temperature controls. Other companies ask their staff to carry out self-monitoring. Only indispensable personnel have access to the control rooms.