Port of Antwerp-Bruges: role and responsibility in decarbonisation

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The Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Europe’s second largest, is determined to play a role and take responsibility for decarbonisation, guests heard at a networking reception held at the residence of the Ambassador of Belgium in London during last week’s LISW23 event.

Luc Arnouts (pictured, right), VP – International Relations and Networks at Port of Antwerp-Bruges, said one of the key reasons for last year’s merger of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge (within the municipality of Bruges) was the need to focus on the energy transition and he emphasised the role and responsibility of the port authority in this.

“We are starting to operate the first tugs in the world on methanol and hydrogen. But we need to decarbonise industry and replace with green. It is a huge challenge, to decarbonise the steel industry and the cement industry.

“Our role as a port authority is to try to be involved in the global production of green electrons and molecules and as an important base for green electrons and green molecules – we see a very strong role for our port to be a main importer and we have the space for expansion.”
The Port of Antwerp-Bruges also has a dedicated area for customers that want to invest in the circular economy. Finally, Arnouts referred to carbon capture and storage. “If we can’t reduce CO2 emissions, we have to capture, liquefy and bring this to safe storage. A project we are pushing very hard is to build a liquefaction plant.”

He emphasised the importance of innovation in the sector. “We are a very traditional sector. We transport goods from A to B – but over the last 10-15 years, this industry is really moving forward in an innovative way and putting a lot of money and energy into innovation.”
Three years of discussions preceded the merger of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge in April 2022, said Arnouts.

“Why did it take so long? Because we wanted to go for full integration, and that means you need to integrate everything – ownership, one CEO, one executive committee, a fully integrated structure. I can assure you, it takes time.”

The two ports were very complementary, he said – Zeebrugge focused on ro-ro, multimodal and LNG, and the shortsea, and Antwerp focused on containers, breakbulk and the chemicals cluster, and the deepsea. The result is a port that is also ‘complementary to the region’ and has three pillars, said Arnouts: “We are much more than a port. We are a combination of port handling platform, big industrial complex and huge logistics complex. It is intertwined.”

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