The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge will merge and operate under the name ‘Port of Antwerp-Bruges’.

Antwerp and Zeebrugge ports merger

The merger of Antwerp and Zeebrugge is set to create the most important container port in Europe. Photo: Port of Antwerp

An agreement between the City of Antwerp and the City of Bruges marks the start of a unification process that is expected to take a year to finalise. The merged port will become the most important container port (157m tonnes/year), one of the largest break bulk ports and the largest port for the throughput of vehicles in Europe. It will account for more than 15% of Europe’s liquid natural gas transited and will remain Europe's most important chemical hub. The unified port will have a total throughput of 278m tonnes per year.

Annick De Ridder, port alderman and chair of the board of directors of the Antwerp Port Authority: “We are proud of this historic agreement, which seals a long-awaited unification. By joining forces, we are on the way to becoming Europe's global port, while at the same time reinforcing our position as the most important container port in terms of tonnage, a solid RoRo port and one of the largest break bulk ports in Europe.”

Dirk De fauw, mayor of Bruges and chair of Zeebrugge Port Authority: “We are looking forward to join forces with the port of Antwerp and, by doing so, to strengthen our position as the most important gateway to Europe. Zeebrugge is the world’s largest automotive hub, a leading RoRo port and an experienced, state-of-the-art natural gas hub. By combining our own strengths with the qualities offered by Antwerp, we will be able to do more and do it better.”

Combining strengths

Antwerp specialises in the handling and storage of containers, break bulk and chemical products, while Zeebrugge is a major port for ro-ro traffic, container handling and the transhipment of liquid natural gas.

As part of a joint plan, the two ports have defined three strategic priorities – sustainable growth, resilience and leadership in the energy and digital transition.

Port of Antwerp-Bruges will seek to develop and make optimum use of the interconnectivity between the two ports. The transportation of goods by rail between the two sites will be bundled, estuary traffic (by inland vessels on the North Sea) will be optimised and pipeline connections will also be on the list of priorities.

Committed strategic investments, such as the new sea lock in Zeebrugge and the additional container capacity in Antwerp, will go ahead. Future investments will be evaluated from a unified operational perspective.

Sustainability already formed a central part of the strategic direction in Antwerp and in Zeebrugge, but Port of Antwerp-Bruges aims to set the bar higher. Combining the industrial cluster in Antwerp and Zeebrugge's location on the coast will create a unique opportunity to address the future energy challenges in Flanders and the wider region.

As such, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges will take up a leading position as an import hub for green hydrogen and will play an active and pioneering role in the hydrogen economy. In addition, the port, in collaboration with its industrial and maritime customers, will continue its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and will examine methods of applying CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilisation & Storage) in order to contribute to the transition towards a low-carbon port.