Antwerp was the clear winner among the major container ports in Europe’s fiercely competitive northern range in 2015, with the Belgian giant bucking the trend of ailing box traffic as the sole member to achieve significant volume growth.

The port handled a record 9.7m teu last year, a rise of 7.9% on the previous 12 months, to lay claim to be Europe’s second-busiest box at the expense of rival Hamburg, which witnessed a 9% slump in traffic to 8.9m teu as volumes slipped to their lowest level since 2010.

Rotterdam understandably held on to the crown as the Continent’s premier port in 2015. However, it reported a 0.5% dip in traffic from 12.3m to 12.2m teu.

Antwerp’s success last year came largely at the expense of fellow Belgian port Zeebrugge, where volumes fell 24% following two consecutive years of volume growth to 1.6m teu. Zeebrugge has perhaps been the least fortunate of the ports in the Hamburg-Le Havre range from the reshuffling of service networks as part of the alliance regrouping among container lines, with the formation of 2M resulting in its partners Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co omitting the port completely from its service rotations.

Antwerp was also not exposed to the collapse in Russian trade volumes as a result of sanctions that plagued its northern competitors.

With Russia representing Hamburg’s second largest trading partner after China it was hit hardest, as trade with the country fell 34.4% against the previous year. Rotterdam, too, reported a drop in Russian trade. However, whereas Hamburg was also affected by slowing growth in the Chinese economy impacting volumes on key Asia-Europe services and the trend of Polish bound boxes moving to Gdansk at its expense, the Dutch port, which actually reported a 2% jump in Asian imports, attributed its fall in traffic to a disappointing year for Latin American and North American exports.

Nevertheless, Rotterdam still managed to increase its overall market share of container traffic in the northern range to 30.3% as a result of Hamburg’s significant declines, which meant it saw its own share fall to 21.9%. Antwerp surpassed its rival handling 23.9% of volumes, while Bremerhaven, having lost business to rival Wilhelmshaven, and Zeebrugge’s market share also fell against last year to 13.7% and 3.9% respectively.

The French port of Le Havre increased its share marginally to 6.3% following a 0.4% year-on-year increase to 2.6m teu in its container volumes for 2015.