Brexit Deal: Long awaited perspectives for the port and the port businesses

  • Port of Zeebrugge

The port of Zeebrugge is thé bridgehead for distribution from the Northwest of Europe to the United Kingdom. Many terminals, liners and logistics companies in Zeebrugge focus their activities on the United Kingdom. 

Without a deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom, trade would have been dependent on the international agreements of the World Trade Organisation. This would have resulted in tariffs, quota and, for the fishery, an end to fishing in British territorial waters. 

The port authority in Zeebrugge is relieved that a ‘No Deal’ is finally off the table. “After several years of question marks and uncertainties, we can now finally start looking forward again.” Tom Hautekiet, CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge, stresses the importance of the Trade Agreement between the EU and the UK for the Port of Zeebrugge: 

The port of Zeebrugge is a global leader in the handling of new vehicles. “Nowhere in the world are more new vehicles shipped and transported on rail and on road as in Zeebrugge. We thank this position to an extensive network of logistical connections to the benefit of the automotive industry. Annually, we handle about 2.9 million new vehicles, 833,000 of which are linked to the UK. (This figure is the 2019 result, due to the consequences of the Covid crisis, 2020 will not reach the same level.) A Brexit trade agreement prevents extra tariffs on all these vehicles. For the automotive trade between the EU and the UK this is extremely positive, but for the port of Zeebrugge, it also ensures the opportunities for further development and growth.”  

Zeebrugge, a ‘Clean Port’ without polluting industries, has a large variety of companies that specialise in the handling and storage of food products and a Border Inspection Post where plant and animal product checks are performed. “Without a deal between the EU and the UK, extra tariffs would have been imposed on food products, which would have made them more expensive for the consumer. Medium-term, this would have had an impact on the cargo volumes in the port. Seeing the high activity and employment in this sector in Zeebrugge, we are all pleased this has been prevented. Our fast Zeebrugge/UK door-to-door distribution model is a guaranteed  trump card in the port of Zeebrugge, which will not be influenced by import tariffs.”  

We are happy an agreement was reached about the future of European fishery, and we hope this agreement is, now or in the future, in line with the expectations of the Flemish fishery. An impact on the activities in Zeebrugge is however inevitable. We can only hope that the adjustment period offers the sector good prospects.

The announcement of the trade agreement does not influence the operational working of the port as of January 1 2021. Cargo between the EU and the UK will be submitted to extra customs formalities and checks. “The entire port community has really come together this past time to make sure that every one in the logistics chain is prepared for the post-Brexit formalities. What the first days and weeks will bring, is always an uncertainty. We can only trust in the many preparations and be hopeful for the new chapter.”