German, Belgian and Dutch ports: Europe, join forces to preserve the industry

German, Belgian and Dutch ports: Europe, join forces to preserve the industry

For years, the conversation between ports has been dominated by the question of who is the biggest. Nowadays, however, when the CEOs of Port of Antwerp-Bruges, North Sea Port, Duisburger Hafen AG and Port of Rotterdam sit around the table, we no longer talk about tonnes of cargo, but about how we can unite to secure a sustainable future for industry in Europe. On the eve of the European industry summit on 17 and 18 April, we call on European government leaders to do the same and find a solution to the deteriorating position of our industry.

The manufacturing industry in the triangle between the Flemish-Dutch ports and the German Ruhr area is responsible for a large share of European production. Companies in the chemical and steel industries are located in the ports because of the supply of (still largely fossil) raw materials and energy. These are substantial emitters with a major responsibility to reduce their carbon emissions quickly. These companies also enable us to make electronics, medicine and mattresses in Europe. This is also the case for wind turbines, insulation materials and solar cells. The largely international head offices, however, are now wondering whether they still see a future in Europe. This is of huge concern to us as industry, in particular, can make a huge difference in making our society more sustainable.

As ports, we therefore want to take the lead in improving the investment climate for industry in Europe so that the relevant companies want to invest in sustainability. The companies in the triangle are, quite literally, connected by a network of pipelines. They cooperate, supply raw materials to each other and share expertise. The ports and industrial clusters are all adapting infrastructure to tomorrow's raw materials and energy, such as hydrogen, so that even a sustainable industry can continue to cooperate efficiently. That also means planning and investing together. And, to be fair, we could do that more often and more effectively at times.

As the landlords of large industrial complexes, we aim to work on the basis of a shared vision. Space in ports is already scarce and processes such as more sustainable, circular production require much more space and may sometimes have a temporary, additional environmental impact. We therefore want to work together to figure out which activities we really need in Europe. Where is that space available, both physically and in terms of regulation? What will our ports and industry look like in 2050 when they have become climate neutral? A common answer to these questions will only be found and succeed if our governments also look at the industry from an international perspective.

So we ask that European government leaders, like us, stand alongside industry. Energy-intensive companies face much higher costs in Europe than in other parts of the world and have to cope with more complex laws and regulations. And, in the United States, the massive Inflation Reduction Act support package is making it more attractive for companies to invest in the necessary renewal there. If governments do nothing in return, investment in sustainability in Europe will stall and the industry will move outside Europe. Existing plants will then be kept operational for as long as possible as they age and will eventually shut down. That means more imports from outside Europe with negative consequences for the climate, our strategic autonomy and prosperity.

More and more people are suggesting that, if further money must be spent, we may be better off losing industry rather than retaining it. We understand their hesitation. Industry does not come without certain disadvantages and will not stop using fossil resources and emitting CO2 overnight. This requires a transition and maximum effort from everyone. We hope that industry will find this in Europe; after all, it provides crucial support for our ports, along with logistics and the energy sectors. The sectors represent about 63 billion euros in added value and over half a million jobs. That is why European government leaders need to merge climate and industrial policies in their five-year plan, as recently highlighted by European business in "The Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal." Let's maintain healthy competition and strengthen our cooperation on the energy transition.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp-Bruges
​Boudewijn Siemons, CEO Port of Rotterdam
​Daan Schalck, CEO North Sea Port
​Markus Bangen, CEO Duisburger Hafen AG


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About Port of Antwerp-Bruges

With an overall throughput of 271 million tonnes per year, Port of Antwerp-Bruges is a critical hub in worldwide trade and industry. The port is a crucial link for the handling of containers, breakbulk and for the throughput of vehicles. Port of Antwerp-Bruges is home to 1,400 companies and accommodates the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe. The port provides, directly and indirectly, a total of around 164,000 jobs and generates an added value of 21 billion euros.
The ambition for Port of Antwerp-Bruges is clear - to become the world's first port that reconciles economy, people and climate. As well as growing in a sustainable way, the Port also aims to focus on its unique position as a logistics, maritime and industrial centre and to take the lead in the transition to a circular and low-carbon economy. Together with the port community, customers and other partners, Port of Antwerp-Bruges is actively seeking innovative solutions for a sustainable future. High on the agenda is its responsibility for the environment and the surrounding society. 

The port sites of Antwerp and Zeebrugge are operated by the Antwerp-Bruges Port Authority, a limited liability company of public law with the City of Antwerp and the City of Bruges as its shareholders. The port employs 1,800 people. Vice-Mayor of Antwerp Annick De Ridder is President of the Board of Directors, the Mayor of Bruges Dirk De fauw is the Vice-President. Jacques Vandermeiren is CEO and President of the Executive Committee, which is responsible for the port’s day-to-day management.

The telephone number +32 492 15 41 39 is only for press inquiries. For other questions you can mail to

Port of Antwerp-Bruges
Zaha Hadidplein 1
2030 Antwerp