08-10 October 2024

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Updates from the Port of Antwerp-Bruges: What’s happening at Europe’s largest breakbulk hub?

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges is abuzz with activity, with numerous ongoing projects. Having recently launched the first drone network in the port area, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges continues to accumulate a list of world firsts.

With an overall throughput of 287 million tonnes per year, Port of Antwerp-Bruges is a critical hub in worldwide trade and industry. It is a crucial link for the handling of containers, breakbulk and the throughput of vehicles. The port’s ambition is clear; to become the world’s first port that reconciles economy, people and climate, in a sustainable way. Together with the port community, customers and other partners, Port of Antwerp-Bruges is actively seeking innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

What’s new at Port of Antwerp-Bruges?

Most recently, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges launched a drone network spanning the port area. Jo Van der herten, key account manager at Port of Antwerp-Bruges, says: ‘Six autonomous drones will perform daily flights in the Antwerp port area, a world first that will make an important contribution to overall security of the complex port environment. The ‘D-Hive drone-in-a-box’ network is the result of a partnership between the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, DroneMatrix, SkeyDrone and Proximus.’

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges is also boasting a European-first in its rail activities with neutral operation of its hump yard. Van der herten says: ‘The neutral operation of the automatic hump yard at the Antwerp-North marshalling yard in the port is an important factor in achieving the movement of more goods, faster and more economically.’

Van der herten adds: ‘Thanks to this rail infrastructure in Belgium’s largest and busiest freight station, trains can be assembled more efficiently. In order to create a level playing field for everyone, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Railport Antwerp, Lineas and Infrabel are working together to make this important facility available to all rail operators.’

Digital collaboration

Port of Antwerp-Bruges as a place of innovation is not recent news. Together with the port community and its partners, it turns today’s challenges such as energy transition, digitalisation and mobility into solutions. A smart port brings together economy, climate and people. Smart technologies (e.g. a ‘digital twin’ of the port, sensors, autonomous drones and smart cameras) and digitisation play a key role in this.

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges has also collaborated with Routescanner’s digital platform to provide direct connections on its website. With Routescanner, a shipper or freight forwarder can easily find and compare possible routes for its container shipments on a neutral platform. Direct Connections shows all available connections to Antwerp and Zeebrugge. The platform can also instantly calculate the route’s carbon emissions. Routescanner is investigating the possibility of including breakbulk sailings as well.

Enhanced international cooperation

As part of the collaboration between Belgium and Germany to enhance each other’s energy independence, the Belgian-German energy summit was recently held in Zeebrugge. ‘To this end, the two countries signed an agreement to intensify their collaboration, including through an Energy Contact Group. Port of Antwerp-Bruges’ strategy and projects around hydrogen, circularity and carbon capture, among others, make the port an essential player in both countries’ ambitions to become climate neutral,’ Van der herten says.

Closer to home, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges’ boosts circular economy activities in its NextGen District. The new area allows suppliers and companies to interact with each other. The cluster is located in an industrial environment, close to the largest integrated petrochemical cluster in Europe. Van der herten says: ‘This cluster-enhancing effect provides a competitive advantage to both new and existing businesses. Currently the following players within the circular industry will be present at NGD: Triple Helix, recycling polyurethane foam and PET shells into new raw materials; PureCycle, recycling PP plastics into renewed PP plastics; Bolder Industries, recycling end-of-life car tyres into new raw materials; Plug Power Inc, production of green hydrogen and Ekopak NV, circular water recycling company.’

The green future of breakbulk

With the switch to a circular economy and major investments in the energy transition, Port of Antwerp-Bruges is aiming for climate neutrality by 2050. ‘As a major import and export hub with a very large chemical industry, we have a range of assets at our disposal as a port to limit the impact on the climate,’ says Van der herten.

One current project at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges with a central focus on the environment is the port’s green energy hub. The port aims to be an active pioneer of the sustainable hydrogen economy, to become Europe’s leading import hub for green hydrogen. The port is also working on making more efficient use of raw materials via circular economy (NGD), Antwerp@C (reusing CO2) and Antwerp-North Heat Network and Ecluse (reusing residual heat). Moreover, the port is working on establishing local renewable energy via solar panels and wind turbines, and also cleaner sea and inland navigation via Multifuel port and greening of its own fleet.

‘These are all examples of things that have recently happened but we are obviously looking forward to much more in the future, so stay tuned,’ says Van der herten.

‘We would like to become the first port that can solve economy, people in climate, as well as growing our business in a sustainable way. We aim to focus on our unique position as a logistics and maritime industry centre. So combining those three, and taking the lead in transition to a circular and low carbon economy, together with our port’s community, customers and other partners, we are actively seeking to innovate and to offer solutions for sustainable future,’ adds Van der herten.

Responsibility for the environment and surrounding society is something that is a core value to the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, and it has become part of its DNA, to take care and to make sure that it grows on that in the future.

Source: Cyann Fielding, AntwerpXL 2023

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