The official Coastlink 2019 round-up with details of what topics were discussed during the two-day conference.

Chaired by Gavin Roser, Ambassador at Large, the Coastlink Conference focused very much on knowledge sharing - how delegates, short sea operators, ports and logisticians can best take advantage of future opportunities in the market


Day one of the conference saw an interesting variety of speakers with presentations on how the sector can tackle the changing face of European logistics, including economic demands for transportation.

Sarah Kenny, Vice Chair of Maritime UK, delivered the keynote address and talked about the £40 billion the marine industry contributes to the UK economy. But highly trained and motived personnel need to be engaged to raise the profile of the industry to be ready for a range of trade futures.

“If we want to move forward, the industry needs to sustain, grow and regain,” she said.

Another stand out talk came from Justin Atkin, the port representative UK & Ireland for the Port of Antwerp, who confirmed that the UK & Ireland is the port’s second largest trading partner with a 15% growth in the UK & Ireland in the last few years.

"The sector needs to prepare itself for the future modal shift in shipping, shifting boxes off the road by rail and inland shipping." he said.

The afternoon panel session opened with Andrew Ellis, country manager of Unifeeder UK, who talked about daily challenges to the industry include lack of truck drivers, transport costs, seasonal fluctuations, storage, damage of cargo, CSR & environment and Brexit.

He warned that the supply chain is at risk with experts predicting a deficit of 150,000 drivers in 2020. He explained that we should take things back to basics and move by sea.

Delegates were given to opportunity to continue the day of interesting debate, discussion and comment into the evening with the conference networking dinner.


Day two of the conference centred around how short sea shippers may benefit or lose out from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential impact on European shipping.

Krzysztof Zalewski from the Port of Gdansk highlighted that it is the gateway for cargo from East to Central and Eastern Europe for China, so he said that it makes economic and political sense for the port to back the initiative.

There are currently circa 50 rail services per week from China which is equivalent to seven large container ships and the forecast for ten years’ time is the equivalent to 30 container ships.

The Port of Antwerp and its representative, Justin Atkin, said that the port has agreements with two Chinese ports. In 2018, the port received its first train exclusively bound for Antwerp from China with a 16-day transit.

But overall, the port is taking a cautious approach to BRI as it sees it as a challenge to its maritime business – meaning that its position as a gateway and hub could be threatened.

Some of the big ports represented in the room commenting on the topic, did not feel a threat from the BRI initiative, just from Chinese investments in competing ports.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on with regards to BRI - it is happening. The feeling from the audience and panel was mixed to the BRI discussion, but all agreed that communication and transparency on the issue is key to keep short sea shipping competitive in future.


As summed up by the panellists in the Q&A discussion at the end of the conference, "There are plenty of opportunities for SSS in future, it just needs to work harder at filling its own niche and taking advantage of new opportunities and markets."

The conference ended with further opportunity to network during a tour of Southampton Port’s short sea shipping capabilities, kindly hosted by ABP Southampton.

Want to know more?

The presentations and papers from this year’s conference are now available to download. Those who attended will receive a username and password. If you missed the conference, you can buy the downloads online here.

The team want to thank all those who attended and spoke at this year’s Coastlink conference.