Antwerp Port Authority’s CEO has claimed that stronger cooperation between Antwerp and Rotterdam is necessary to retain competitiveness over southern European ports, which are receiving Chinese investment.
According to Eddy Bruyninckx, cooperation is necessary because future growth possibilities in central Europe are endangered by Chinese investments in southern European ports, Dutch newspaper Dutch Financial Daily reported.
Bruyninckx’s call comes within a month of news that Chinese state terminal operator Cosco Pacific, which previously signed a 35-year lease contract for the container terminal at the Greek Port of Piraeus, is now the sole bidder for a 51% stake in the port authority.
Bruyninckx said that Rotterdam and Antwerp have to make more use of their critical mass and go on the offensive, mentioning the potential creation of joint points of throughput for the transport of goods to Central and Eastern Europe as an example .
He reportedly added: “We both play our role, but it is smarter to transport goods jointly to Poland, Czech Republic or Hungary. By putting cargo together, you create mass.”
The Belgian port’s CEO claimed that future opportunities for the northern European ports are to be found in the transport to these countries as they have greater economic growth potential than the more matured western European markets.
According to Bruyninckx, the two European biggest ports should also form a defensive strategy. “We have to make clear in Brussels that EU subsidies for investments in infrastructure in southern Europe are not always a good course,” he reportedly claimed.
The Port of Antwerp’s head said there are already intelligent hinterland connections from northern European ports, claiming that, in economic and ecological terms, “it could be better for vessels to go to northern European ports first and from there transport the goods to southern Europe and Central European markets”.
In a response to Bruyninckx, Sjaak Poppe, a spokesman for the Port of Rotterdam, said that the call to cooperate was “logical” and not a “silly thought”, according to Dutch website Logistiek.
However, Poppe pointed out that at the moment there are now specific projects on which the two ports are jointly working, excluding the fact that they are working beside each other and lobbying in Brussels.
The ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam have already tried to cooperate more in the past, having also attempted in 2010 to create a joint hub in the inland Port of Duisburg, Germany, as both ports wanted to take a stake in the port authority.
Poppe reportedly said that at that time the two port authorities had a realistic option for cooperation, adding that unfortunately in the end the Germans were a little bit too reluctant to give the share to both ports.
Bruyninckx added: “That attempt has failed, but when the opportunity comes again, we have to grab it.”