December 30 - The port of Antwerp is expected to handle a total of 198.8 million tonnes of freight by the end of 2014 - a year-on-year increase of 4.2 percent and a new record for the Belgian gateway.

The record growth was driven by container handling, which was up 5.6 percent compared with 2014; and liquid bulk, which saw a year-on-year increase of 5.4 percent.

The port's ro-ro volume fell by 1.2 percent this year, however, at 4.51 million tonnes. The port of Antwerp puts this decrease down to a fall in the number of cars handled, which has been affected by the Ebola outbreak, unrest in the Middle East and the poor economic situation in Argentina and Brazil.

Conventional breakbulk was also down by 3.3 percent and is expected to total 9.75 million tonnes for 2014. Despite the decrease, the port said that the breakbulk sector is still very important for the gateway, accounting for some 40 percent of dock labour.

Investments in the petrochemical sector at the port were also significant in 2014, with ExxonMobil announcing a commitment of USD1 billion to its refinery in the port, and Total also investing EUR1 billion (USD1.2 billion) in its Antwerp site.

During the past 12 months, 13,978 seagoing ships called at the port of Antwerp, which is 1.7 percent fewer than in 2013. Gross tonnage, however, was up by 1.5 percent.