1951 - 1985

After the war, the shipping industry only made slow progress, as the repair works were not finished until 1951. From the fifties, we remember the industrial establishments in the inland port of Bruges, with e.g. the flourishing of the shipbuilding yards (‘Rederij Hermans’, ‘Scheepswerven van Vlaanderen’), the interest of the Greek shipowner Onassis and the Suez crisis of 1956. Owing to this, Zeebrugge carried out adjustments in order to be able to receive the new larger oil tankers. The Sinclair Petroleum Terminal became operational in 1961 and the Prince Philip dock was put into use in 1962.

The real breakthrough for Zeebrugge came about in the second half of the sixties, together with the second maritime revolution: the construction of increasingly larger ships and the advent of new techniques to handle unit loads: roll-on/roll-off traffic and containerisation. As from 1964, the British shipping company Townsend-Thoresen organised ferry services for passengers and freight from Zeebrugge to Dover and Felixstowe. In 1972, North Sea Ferries set up a regular ferry connection to Hull.

Free Enterprise II eerste roroschip in Zeebrugge
olietanker Zeebrugge

Since Antwerp was inaccessible for the new supertankers, the American company TEXACO opted for Zeebrugge as its port of call, and a pipeline was installed between Zeebrugge and its refinery in Ghent. In 1968, the first tanker called at the port. In the same year, FerryBoats organised the first container transport to Harwich at the Short Sea Container terminal. In 1971, intercontinental container ships were handled for the first time at the Ocean Container terminal Zeebrugge, on the newly constructed Western Peninsula.

westerhoofd met texaco
haven 1972

The progress made by Zeebrugge compelled the authorities to examine the further expansion of the port. Various plans were drawn up, the most important of which are : the study group RA, the Harris plan, the Mortelmans project, the Gys-Cuypers proposal and the Zeestad project. In 1968, the Minister of Public Works decided to set up the Verschave Commission in order to examine the further expansion of Zeebrugge. This examination was faced with opposition from Antwerp as well as from the Walloon provinces, which claimed economic compensations. This tug of war was ended once and for all in 1970, when the framework agreement for the overall expansion of Zeebrugge was approved.


Shortsea Container Terminal
Townsend Thoresen Zeebrugge - Dover

The works for the overall expansion were carried out between 1972 and 1985 and included the construction

  • the outer port: built in the sea and protected by means of two longitudinal embankments with a length of 4 km, accessible without locks for large sea-going vessels. Because of the direct entrance from the sea and the large water depth in the navigation channel and along the quay walls (up to Z - 16 m), the outer port is very suitable for fast container traffic and ro-ro traffic.
  • the Pierre Vandamme lock (500 m long, 57 m wide and with a useful water depth up to 18.50 m), which provides entrance to the inner port of Zeebrugge, that is   equipped with two large docks:
    • the Northern Inlet dock (with a water depth up to 14 m)
    • the Northern Inlet dock (with a water depth up to 14 m)

The quay grounds around these docks are equipped with various terminals for the handling, storage and distribution of new cars, conventional general cargo, ‘high & heavy’ cargoes and containers.

 The new port of Brugge-Zeebrugge was inaugurated by H.M. King Baudouin I on 20 July 1985.

Koning Boudewijn plechtige inhuldiging haven
Inhuldiging nieuwe haven 1985
Zeebrugge 1985