Over the past three years, intensive efforts have been made to fully prepare the Antwerp port for the reception of container ships with a draft of 16 meters. This opens doors for Antwerp to be the first port of call for the largest ships. Achieving this milestone involved six meticulous test voyages, with the last one taking place on November 10, 2023, featuring the successful passage of MSC Raya in the Deurganck dock. Today, MSC Aurora becomes the first container ship to sail to Antwerp with a draft of 16 meters under normal admission policy, not as a trial run.
Previously, the draft was limited to 15.56 meters. The 16-meter draft represents a crucial step forward. The close collaboration between the shipping company MSC Belgium, the pilots and traffic controllers of the Maritime Services and Coast Agency (MDK), the Dutch pilots, the Joint Nautical Authority (GNA) and Port of Antwerp-Bruges made this impressive result possible.
The series of tests began on March 1, 2021, with the arrival of MSC Regulus with a draft of 15.7 meters, and MSC Rapallo also had a successful test voyage with a draft of 15.7 meters. This was followed by MSC Diletta on July 9, 2022, with a draft of 15.9 meters and MSC Isabella. On October 2, 2023, MSC Tessa successfully set the depth record of 16 meters upon arrival from Portugal in the Deurganck dock.
After the successful completion of the last test with MSC Raya, various procedures have been followed, and as of today, the 16-meter draft is officially in effect. The Antwerp port now has the capacity to welcome the world's largest ships. This additional 5 decimeters can yield approximately 1000 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) gain. The increased draft of 16 meters applies exclusively to container ships sailing to the Deurganck dock.
Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and President of the board of directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges: “For our global economic position, it is essential that we can continue to receive the largest container ships. A draft of 16m allows us to further profile ourselves in the Far East, where the largest ships sail. This strengthens our position as the first port of call. It gives us a competitive advantage and consolidates our position as a global port. After the first trial run in October, today was the turn of the MSC AURORA to perform the very first official '16m journey.' Our port achieves a new milestone. Congratulations!"
Marc Beerlandt, CEO of MSC Belgium: "I am pleased that a draft of 16 meters has been achieved in the Port of Antwerp. My sincere thanks go to the pilotage, Maritime Services and Coast (MDK), the Joint Nautical Authority (GNA), and the Port of Antwerp-Bruges for their dedicated efforts to achieve this impressive result. The sailing of MSC Aurora marks an important moment and confirms Antwerp as a global port for the largest container ships. This achievement reflects MSC's commitment and the pursuit of continuous progress in Antwerp."