The port authorities of Antwerp and Zeebrugge – two of Flanders’ four seaports – have given the green light to start negotiations for a possible (phased) merger. This decision is based on the findings of a complementarity and robustness study carried out by the consultancy firms Deloitte and Laga.
The Antwerp and Zeebrugge port authorities have had constructive discussions about intensifying their current cooperation and synergies since the beginning of 2018. These discussions led to a joint economic complementarity and robustness study carried out by consultancy firms Deloitte and Laga.
The study evaluated the current forms of cooperation, the possible added value of all potential forms of cooperation, including an economically interesting merger and potential management scenarios.
The research concluded that current collaborations have limited impact because of the traditional competition between the two ports, a scope that’s too limited, and a lack of commitment. However, the report also states that Antwerp and Zeebrugge are highly complementary and face the same challenges. “Far-reaching cooperation makes both ports more robust in existing domains, consolidates local employment and strengthens the ports’ roles in Flanders and internationally,” states Deloitte.
“Intensified cooperation will also enable the ports to respond more quickly and effectively to future opportunities such as economies of scale, energy transition, innovation and digitalization. Even more, clients of both ports are also in favor of increased collaboration between Antwerp and Zeebrugge. In short, cooperation can yield strong win-win results for both ports, provided that there is a far-reaching integration between the two port authorities. As a result, a holding company and merger were the only management models retained in the governance analysis.”
Both port authorities are willing to formally start negotiations in view of a possible (phased) merger. The entire process is expected to take around two years.
Dirk De Fauw, chairman of the Port of Zeebrugge: “We have been talking with the Port of Antwerp for some time now to see how we can work more closely together with the aim of strengthening each other’s platforms. The ambition of both our port authorities is to form a future-proof port with a complete offering from A to Z. Based on the growing trust and the positive findings of the research report, we will start the formal discussions with our colleagues from the Port of Antwerp.”
Port of Antwerp Alderman Annick De Ridder: “Deloitte's research indicates that our ports are highly complementary and that we face similar challenges. Together, we can turn Antwerp and Zeebrugge into the port of the future faster and more effectively by focusing on domains such as energy transition, innovation and digitalization. We are starting formal merger talks with Zeebrugge because we are confident that this will enable us to reinforce our position as the main gateway to Europe.”