For the Port of Antwerp shortsea is a sustainable alternative to long distance trucking but on a wider scale it’s also part of its multi-fuel strategy.

“As a port authority, we believe that shortsea is a full worthy alternative to long distance trucking,” says Dries Van Gheluwe, Short Sea Shipping, Port of Antwerp. “Europe has many ports and is connected well via the ocean network, this gives opportunities to bring goods much closer to the end market instead of crossing the whole of Europe with a truck.”

Multifuel strategy

As one of the largest ports in Europe, Mr Van Gheluwe says it’s ready to “walk the talk”. The port authority has focused on developing the ability to provide its customers a variety of green fuel options, of fundamental importance to the shortsea market. “There are many alternative fuels we are developing and as the port authority of one of the most important bunker markets, we want to be ready to offer the market what it wants.”

One of the most recent developments, Mr Van Gheluwe explains, is the expansion of LNG-bunker opportunities. He points to the recent ship-to-ship LNG bunker operations which have taken place at Antwerp. Most were for shortsea shipping tankers that operate in North-West Europe. One such operation saw Titan LNG bunker the Fure Ven (Furetank Rederi AB) at the MAC2 Group of Companies terminals.

The port authority is also working on hydrogen and methanol as alternative fuels for its customers. It is currently building a hydrogen tug that will be unique in the market. The goal is to have it operational in 2021/2022.

Shore power

Next to alternative fuels, the port also has a strong focus on infrastructure for shore power. Shore power is part of the Green Deal roadmap that the European commission launched last year and Antwerp believes it can be an important corner stone of a zero-emission port environment.

Because of that, the port authority is looking to build business cases with several terminals to develop shore power and offer it to the shipping lines.

Why shortsea

Shortsea is being driven by customer demand in the market, says Mr Gheluwe, which is why the port authority must serve it going forward. “We believe that it’s mostly driven by customer demand and the free market. To us, building business cases based on subsidies is not the way forward.”

But when it comes to driving shortsea as a sustainable shipping option, the market drivers are a little different, Mr Van Gheluwe says. It’s a combination of both regulation and customer demand. A lot of customers (definitely in the FMCG business) have high demands of their customers to move to greener transport.

And Mr Van Gheluwe says there is an important role for the authorities to play here too. “We are embedding green shipping in our strategy and working together with the shipping lines in making the right choices,” he says.

Environmental strategy

It is clear that the strategy for short sea shipping fits in with the overarching environmental strategy of the port. One of the advantages of shortsea for a lot of routes is that you don’t need to invest in a lot of infrastructure, it’s also “the most easy way to connect to markets” for many parts in Europe, Norway is an excellent example of this.

Mr Van Gheluwe says that Antwerp has an overall strategy to collaborate with shipping lines for a sustainable future. It sees shortsea shipping as the extra mode of transport needed in addition to barge and rail transport going forward.

“Being able to use all these different types of transport, and as a port have the opportunity to offer all these types, is a huge advantage,” says Mr Van Gheluwe. “It’s also the combination of all these modes that is the strength of a product. The truck will never disappear and is a crucial element in the first and the last mile of the transport. It’s using all these types in a smart way that will make the difference both from an economic and environmental perspective.”

Attend the Coastlink Conference on 25 & 26 November 2020 to hear more and to benefit from the networking opportunities on offer at the Port. Delegate places can be booked online, or alternatively contact our events team on +44 1329 825335 or email