Status: 02/12/2021 4:10 p.m.
For centuries the two Belgian container ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp were rivals – now they are merging. This also offers opportunities for the German economy.
From Michael Schneider,
ARD studio Brussels
The two Belgian container ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp want to become Europe’s most important trading center. Representatives of the cities of Bruges and Antwerp, the Flemish government and the port authorities gave the green light for the merger of the two ports and emphasized that this would open a new chapter in the history of trade.
ARD studio Brussels
“It is a historic event that the ports of Antwerp and Bruges-Zeebrugge are now so close together,” said the Mayor of Bruges, Dirk de fauw. “That we set sail together. Because there were times when we saw each other as competitors. And we also competed against each other for commercial transactions abroad.”
Tiefwasserhafen im Inland
In fact, the two Flemish trading cities were bitter competitors for centuries. Antwerp, with its deep-water port inland on the banks of the Scheldt, is one of Europe’s largest transshipment centers for general cargo and containers. In 2019, a total of 238 million tons of freight were handled here.
Zeebrugge, a good 100 kilometers to the west, was founded on the coast when the port of the trading city of Bruges silted up in the 15th century. Historically important connections exist here via the Channel to the British Isles. The port is also an important terminal for natural gas. Both actors go well together, thinks economics professor Thierry Vanelslander from the University of Antwerp.
“Zeebrugge is a deep sea port, Antwerp is much further inland – and therefore closer to the hinterland. You rely on different customers,” says Vanelslander. “Antwerp is strong when it comes to containers and general cargo. Zeebrugge relies more on car exports and has grown into an energy port. So they are two very complementary ports.”
The future form of organization was debated for a year and a half. Various scenarios were discussed, from a loose partnership to joint supervisory bodies. Full merger is now the best way to maximize profits and meet challenges such as climate change.
Hope for new jobs
The new super port is to apply for hydrogen terminals, and unnecessary traffic is also to be reduced by distributing the tasks. But above all, good business beckons, admits the representative of the city of Antwerp Annick de Ridder. “By bundling our forces, we hope to be able to appear even more strongly on the market,” said de Ridder. “ The ports would now be more attractive for investments and for new customers. That could create jobs in both regions. But the international brand would also get an additional boost.”
This is a clear challenge to Rotterdam, Europe’s largest container port, just a little further north. Antwerp and Zeebrugge want to stabilize their second place under the brand “Port of Flanders” and take up the chase – the Belgian ports had already grown steadily in recent years. The two trading centers are also important for German business and industry.
The y are very well connected to the metropolitan area of the Ruhr area via rails and motorways. Here, too, the super port should soon be looking for new customers.