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Antwerp's Quick Revival After World War I (1919)

Belgium’s leading seaport, Antwerp, Is throwing off the paralyzing effects of the War with extraordinary rapidity, and the energy displayed by its civic and business rulers is of good omen for the future prosperity of this war-worn city.

Three months ago, anyone visiting It would have concluded that at least halt a year must elapse before its trading and shipping activities could possibly be resumed.

Everywhere the quays were in a state of sad neglect and desertion, littered with weeds, rubbish, and the giant heaps of gravel and stocks of wood prepared by the German Invaders for use in their trenches.

The people of the town were in no better case. Underfed, ill clothed, dispirited, they appeared to present a problem that might well baffle the efforts of the most determined. All this has now changed. The Inhabitants have been given a new lease of life, and are today almost themselves again.

Harbor of Antwerp, Belgium circa 1921

Photo: Harbor of Antwerp, Belgium circa 1921

The clearance of the quays and docks Is proceeding rapidly. All the wood has been removed and transported to various places where It can be utilized. The wood left at the port is estimated at a value of two hundred million francs.

Vessels are arriving from overseas laden for the most part with food and manufactured articles, but the time has arrived, says an Antwerp journal, when some of the shipments might advantageously take the form of the raw materials of Industry, which the country awaits eagerly to enable It to take up Its normal Industrial life.

Towards that desideratum, the abolition of licenses for Importation should mean something: and, generally, it may be said that Antwerp is regaining Its old position as a great Continental seaport with surprising rapidity.

It aspires, indeed, to something more than merely to regain its pre-War eminence as a leading Continental entrepôt and trading center. For one thing, it is deeply concerned about its commercial "hinterland."

On the other hand, peaceful trading relations with what was once the German Empire will be extremely difficult, If not altogether Impossible, for years to come, considering all that has passed since 1914.

On the other hand, the reversion of Alsace-Lorraine to France makes these provinces subject to French Imposts, especially the Customs taxes Imposed by France upon goods imported Into the Republic via Antwerp.

Unless there is a substantial revision of these things, Antwerp may be left In the future with a more contracted "hinterland" than before. Obviously, the remedy is to be found In Belgian annexation of the Maastricht district and the absolute freedom of navigation on the ScheIdt.

“From Correspondents: Antwerp’s Quick Revival.” The Nautical Gazette: An International Weekly Newspaper of Shipbuilding, Shipping, Marine Insurance and Export News, Volume 95, No. 15, Saturday, APRIL 12, 1919, P. 258

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