A new superport is about to be created in northwest Europe after the Belgian ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge formally announced their merger.
Talks between the municipal authorities of Antwerp and Bruges began in 2018 and the unification will put the mega-port within striking distance of its close rival, Europe’s largest container hub Rotterdam.
During 2020, the two ports handled 13.8 million (Antwerp, 12 million TEUs, and Zeebrugge, 1.8 million TEUs).
On the other hand, although the figures for Rotterdam, which had a traffic of 14.8 million TEU in 2019, have not yet been officially published, it is under evaluation, if the Dutch gateway will have lost 1 million TEU, which would represent a decrease of 6.7%.
However, representatives of Antwerp and Bruges claim that the merger is “more than a story of tons and TEUs.”
The underlying reason is to become the world’s first port that fits the region’s economy, people and climate.
“The unification project is based on creating added value for the environment in Antwerp and Zeebrugge for customers and stakeholders, but also for the rest of Flanders.” Both ports defined three strategic priorities: sustainable growth, resilience and leadership in the energy and digital transition.”
Annick De Ridder, port alderman and chairwoman of Antwerp Port Authority, added: “We are proud of this historic agreement, which seals a long-awaited unification.
“We are on our way to becoming Europe’s global port, and we are also strengthening our position as the most important container port in tons, a strong ro-ro port and one of the largest breakbulk ports in Europe.
“In this way, we become an even more attractive port for existing customers, for new investors and for all other potential stakeholders, and we are indisputably the economic engine of Flanders.
“The ambition to merge the ports goes even beyond tons and TEUs: we can focus even more on the transition to a low-carbon economy and further digitalization of the logistics chain.”
Dirk De fauw, mayor of Bruges and chairman of Zeebrugge Port Authority, said, “We are looking forward to joining forces with the port of Antwerp and thus strengthening our position as the most important gateway to Europe.”
“Zeebrugge is the world’s largest automotive hub, a leading ro-ro port and an experienced state-of-the-art natural gas hub. By combining our strengths with Antwerp’s qualities, we can do more and better.
“We do so in the interest of and with care for our port community, our city and our region,” he added.
Under the terms of the proposed merger, Ms. De Ridder will serve as chairman of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, and Mr. De fauw as vice chairman. Of the remaining seats on the board, two will be allocated to the city of Bruges, five to the city of Antwerp and four independent members will be appointed.
For his part, the managing director of the Antwerp Port Authority, Jacques Vandermeiren, has been appointed managing director of the merged port.
The deal still needs clearance from the competition authorities and is expected to close this year. If it goes ahead, it will represent the second port merger in the region, following the 2018 creation of the North Sea Port, in which the ports of Ghent and Zeeland were merged.