H.E. François Delhaye, Ambassador, Royal Embassy of Belgium, India and Luc Arnouts, Vice President- International Relations of the Port of Antwerp, together with a high-level delegation of the Belgium-based and second-largest European seaport visited Delhi on April 26 where they met with trade partners and associations to exchange ideas on the situation and evolution of maritime business. The delegation had previously visited Mumbai and Pune.

The announcement of the merger of Port of Antwerp and Zeebrugge began with H.E. François Delhaye addressing the gathering with his valuable words.

“I feel very proud to announce the merger of Port of Antwerp and Zeebrugge to provide highly advanced solutions. We feel proud that Antwerp is getting bigger and better.”

“One of the major ports of Europe, The Port of Antwerp handles significant volumes of cargo. In 2020, there were some drawbacks, but in 2021, we were back to pre-COVID levels. Port operations will hopefully now keep increasing as it is being merged,” Luc Arnouts, Vice President- International Relations and Networks, Port of Antwerp informed.

“Needless to say, the loading, unloading and reloading of goods; we are a source of huge industrial and a huge logistics complex inside. In terms of warehousing provisions, Antwerp is the largest in terms of sq mts and silos for storage. Two main entries to the port were always container business and chemicals transhipment in regard to chemical flows from the East, which has been really strong.”

“Meanwhile, in export, one of the major commodities is steel and it is mostly coming from India,” Arnouts noted.

Zeebrugge is a coastal port, 204 nautical miles away from Port of Antwerp, with a few specific trump cards. The port is one of the main hubs for LNG supply in the region; 15 per cent of LNG consumption in Europe comes via the Port of Zeebrugge to the European Union. “Although smaller in size than Antwerp, Zeebrugge is one of the world’s leading roll-on/roll-off ports, so we have decided to merge.”

According to Arnouts, importantly, one of the most significant purposes of this merger is Energy Transition. “If the European organisation wants to gain success, we will have to import green molecules.”

“With this, a new port entity is coming to life, integrating two units to form one new global port – Port Antwerp-Brugge. Supported by the capabilities of Antwerp – excellent connections with Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Eastern Europe, with short connections with the United Kingdom – the merger will speak volumes about our combined strengths,” he further added.

The event concluded with a final discussion on the investment opportunities and planned projects in India, provided the fact that India is the sixth most important trading partner for the Port of Antwerp.

India’s strategic position with respect to the Port of Antwerp as well as the Port of Antwerp’s permanent office in Mumbai and the JNPT- APEC training center for port development in India since 2016, shows that the relationship shared among them is one of a partnership where mutual opportunities are created to promote mutual elevation. The scope of expansion in the Indian market which can be facilitated with an optimistic interaction between the government and the industry and huge efforts going into logistics and supply chain planning, was further stressed upon as a determinant factor.

“And, all of this, with the Port of Antwerp at the center of execution of strategies, as the most instrumental factor was decried by the speakers collectively.”

Finding answers to the major supply chain disruptions that happened due to COVID-19, Arnouts said, “Supply chain disruptions happened during COVID and one of the reasons is perhaps a too high dependency on China as supplier. So, a better spreading of risks through multisourcing will be a part of the answer and I believe if there is any country that can challenge the current position of China, it is most definitely India.”


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