Port of Zeebrugge: 3 % growth in 2020 

  • Port of Zeebrugge

Port of Zeebrugge reached a growth of nearly 3 percent in 2020, despite the many challenges this past year. After a strong increase in volumes in both 2018 and 2019, the start of the year 2020 looked promising as ever. Unfortunately, the year and the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic brought more challenges than anyone could have anticipated. 

The port authority is proud to publish an overall positive growth figure and thankful for the efforts the port community has made throughout the year. In extremely difficult times, the port of Zeebrugge continued to stand strong.  


Zeebrugge delivers… 

  • Nearly 3 % growth in 2020 
  • A decline in the roll-on/roll-off cargo, compensated by growth in container cargo, LNG and solid bulk 
  • Additional services or connections (3), increased capacity on existing connections (1) and higher frequencies for services (1) 
  • Despite Covid-19, at all times a 100 % operational port 
  • All the necessary preparations to be Brexit proof  
  • Investing in the future: the port authority has invested twice as much in port infrastructure  
  • Strong rail ambition and rise in estuary shipping (+4.2%)  
  • Zeebrugge has the largest on-shore windpark on 1 industrial site, a complete and fully operational 5G network and the greenest tug boat fleet in Europe  

 ...but with points of attention 

  • We regret there were casualties in the port on public road as well as on terminals 
  • We are confronted with the continuing issue of trans-migrants 


2020: the results 

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the automotive industry heavily, causing a decline in roll-on/roll-off cargo in the port of Zeebrugge. In the second quarter of 2020, roro cargo fell back 35% (in comparison to Q2 in 2019). In quarter 3, the decline was 13%. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that a small recovery was achieved: +2.9%. 

In 2020, the handling of new vehicles declined 26 percent, in line with the economic situation of the automotive sector in Europe. A total of 2,191,299 vehicles were handled. It is this figure that weighs on the overall roll-on/roll-off cargo volume in Zeebrugge. There is a loss of 14,2 % in 2020. (Total tonnage: 14,157,435)

The container volume in the port of Zeebrugge grew 10.3 percent to a total of approx. 18 million tonnes (TEU: 1.8 million). The deep sea services climbed 46.3%, short sea services gained 24.9% and estuary shipping grew 27.8%. Apart from a few cancellations early on in the pandemic, no extra losses were seen in the container sector. By implementing quick changes and expanding its terrains, Cosco Shipping Ports Zeebrugge Terminal combined its excellent service with great achievements. Due to congestion in British ports late 2020, the operator was also able to attract a few extra calls. CSP Zeebrugge reached a growth of 25% in TEU in 2020. On average, the terminal has grown 20% each year since 2018.  

The liquid bulk volume grew 16.5 percent to a total volume of 12,617,088 tonnes. The handling of liquid natural gas (LNG) reached a new record: a total volume of 11,018,023 tonnes (+44.4%). The shortsea LNG volumes make up 54.8% of the total volume, the deep sea LNG 45.2%.  

In recent years, the port of Zeebrugge experienced a steady drop in break bulk volumes, partly due to the switch in the shipping of paper products to containers. This year, break bulk declined 29.2% (total volume: 634,613 tonnes).   

The solid bulk grew 28.9% to a total of 1,710,125 tonnes. This is the result of infrastructural works in and around the port for which sand and grint are handled in Zeebrugge (+27.9%). Also, the handling of fodder in the port has seen a strong growth in volume (+55.3%).  

The passenger traffic in the port of Zeebrugge came to a standstill due to travel restrictions in 2020. Since mid-March there haven’t been any more cruise calls and the ferry crossings happened with few passengers aboard.  

The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the number of shifts performed by the port labourers in Zeebrugge: a total of 311,968 in 2020 (361,147 in 2019). The number of active port labourers has dropped 2% (2019: 1,932 , 2020: 1,893).