Belgian ports have the wind in their sails
National Bank of Belgium presents its latest economic impact study
Brussels / Antwerp / Ghent / Ostend / Zeebrugge / Liège 11 March 2019 — According to a new economic impact study of the National Bank of Belgium, direct value added at the Belgian ports rose by 7.3% in 2017 to € 19.4 billion (current prices). Indirect value added was € 15.9 billion. After the decline between 2012 and 2015, direct employment at the Belgian ports was up for the second year in a row. In 2017, the number of direct full-time equivalent jobs (FTE) rose by 0.8% to 116 311. Indirect employment is 1.2 times the direct employment figure, at 138 468 FTE.
In 2017, direct value added increased by 7.6% at the Flemish seaports from € 16 165 million to € 17 394 million. Direct value added rose significantly at the ports of Antwerp and Ghent, by € 662 million and € 518 million respectively. The developments at the ports of Zeebrugge (€ +32 million) and Ostend (€ +17 million) were also substantial.
The chemical industry, which accounted for 32% of direct value added at the port of Antwerp, was mainly responsible for the increase at the most important seaport of the country. Nevertheless, the contribution to value added growth by the fuel production and cargo handling sectors was also significant.
The increase at the port of Ghent was attributable to higher amount in the metalworking industry which generated 24.2% of direct value added at this port. The positive figure at the port of Zeebrugge was driven by the road transport and the ‘port construction and dredging’ sectors. The metalworking industry, which accounted for 36.2% of direct value added at the port of Ostend, was mainly responsible for the increase at this port.
In 2017, direct employment increased by 1% at the Flemish seaports, from 103 563 to 104 612 full-time equivalent jobs. There was job creation at the ports of Antwerp (+721 FTE), Ghent (+285 FTE) and Zeebrugge (+101 FTE). The port of Ostend showed a small decline (-59 FTE).
In terms of direct employment, the cargo handling sector and the chemical industry were the largest sectors at the port of Antwerp, with a share of 24.9% and 17.8% respectively. In the port of Ghent, the car manufacturing (33.2%) and metalworking (21.4%) industries were the largest employers. In the port of Zeebrugge, cargo handling and the public sector were the biggest employers, with shares of 31.4% and 14.4% respectively. In the port of Ostend, the metalworking industry and the public sector were the leading employers, with a share of 29.4% and 15.7% respectively.
In 2017, direct value added increased by 4.6% at the inland ports Brussels and Liège, from € 1 887 million to € 1 974 million. Direct value added increased by € 115 million at the port of Brussels, while the Liège port complex registered a decrease of € 28 million.
The positive evolution at the port of Brussels is attributable to the ‘other logistic services’ sector, which accounted for 62.9% of direct value added. The reduced value added at the Liège port complex was largely due to the energy sector.
In 2017, direct employment at the inland ports as a whole fell by 1.2%, from 11 838 to 11 699 full-time equivalent jobs. The Liège port complex recorded a limited increase (+29 FTE), while the port of Brussels showed a decline with 168 FTE.
The limited rise in employment at the Liège port complex was mainly due to the ‘other logistic services’ sector. The reduction in employment at the port of Brussels was attributable to the trade sector.
Increased direct investment
In 2017, direct investment at the Belgian ports increased by 2.4%, from € 4 711 million to € 4 825 million. There is no information on the nature of these investments, so their indirect effects are difficult to estimate. The port of Ghent and, to a lesser extent, the Liège port complex where the only contributors to investment growth in the Belgian ports.
Delving deeper into the data and trying to explain the above trends in terms of the structural composition of the Belgian ports shows that all ports are concentrated on a few sectors, and within those sectors often on just a handful of companies.