The safety of all port players is one of our highest priorities. Cooperation, consultation and partnerships with public and private enterprises play an important role in this respect. In 2020, we strengthened our continuous efforts to optimise safety.
To ensure that operations run as efficiently and safely as possible, the partners in the chain – involved from the arrival of a ship to its entire stay in the port – meet on a four-monthly basis for the purpose of consultation. During these meetings, safety procedures are developed and adjusted and bottlenecks are resolved. In 2020, we also concluded a new concession agreement with the service provider Boluda Towage Europe. They help all ships enter and exit the port as efficiently as possible.
The end of 2020 saw the finishing touches put on our new port coordination centre, which should further improve the operational functioning of the port. The centre, a collaborative venture with the Flemish government, unites all nautical operational services, such as Port Control, the quay masters, the P1 service that operates all bridges and locks, the lock master of the Vandamme lock and Visart lock, and the Pilotage Coordinator. This joining of forces has already led to even better planning in terms of shipping and smoother communication.
In 2020, several people were regretfully the victims of fatal accidents, both on public roads and on the terminals in the Port of Zeebrugge. We have made several investments in cycling infrastructure and additional lighting with the aim of preventing accidents to the greatest extent possible. A few years ago, we developed a clear map for the emergency services, in cooperation with several companies. The objective was to avoid confusion concerning the addresses in the port, some of which are quite difficult to decipher. This map is updated on an annual basis.
In 2020, we joined forced with Infrabel to explore ways to make level crossings safer, an effort we will continue to make. We have also been developing the “Safety Drone” project in conjunction with Citymesh. In the event of an incident at the port, we will send a drone to the scene of the incident so that the emergency services have the information they need much sooner. We will roll out this project more extensively in 2021, following a test phase.
Learn more about the Safety Drone and other drone-related projects in the “Zeebrugge, drone port in the making” video.
Transmigration remains an immense challenge for the Port of Zeebrugge. Although we are making great efforts, we are also calling for a cross-domain approach. More than two thirds of the transmigrants who enter our country are found in cargo units and have therefore been effectively smuggled out of the country from the hinterland. It is therefore necessary for each partner to assume its own responsibility in this.
In 2020, additional investments were made in improving the safety of the port and the surrounding area with supplementary infrastructural measures and smart camera systems. We are working on a control room where all the images can be centralised and analysed. An alerting system should be triggered immediately in the event of an incident. An additional 34 ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras will be installed in 2021 for even tighter surveillance. The project is being carried out in cooperation with the Federal Police and will be funded in part through European grants.
In December 2020, the Port of Zeebrugge and Boluda Towage Europe concluded a new agreement: Boluda will remain responsible for the towage fleet in the Port of Zeebrugge as a trusted partner for the next five years. How can you explain this fantastic match?
Boluda Towage Europe can once again call itself the partner of the Port of Zeebrugge for all towage traffic for the next five years. Harbour Master Peter Degroote is in contact with Boluda every day and needs only a few adjectives to describe its cooperation with the international tugboat company: “Efficient, fast, safe, affordable and – above all – sustainable.”
Boluda even boasts that its fleet of eight tugs in the Port of Zeebrugge is the greenest in Europe. The harbour master agrees: “Half of that fleet already meets the strictest emission standards of the IMO (International Maritime organisation) for diesel engines, for example, even though meeting that standard (IMO Tier III) has only been compulsory since January 2021. The other four ships will also be brought up to this standard by 2022 at the latest. This approach ensures that we are successful in reducing the emissions of our tugboats by 80 per cent”, says Peter Degroote. The Port of Zeebrugge and Boluda also make a big difference in terms of sustainability in other ways: the ships are required to make use of cold ironing, studies are conducted on biofuels and the tugboat crew are provided with advice with regard to fuel consumption.
Boluda has been anchored in Zeebrugge for many years and will certainly remain so in the years to come, possibly even after the new five-year contract has expired. “The tugboat company hires local personnel to man its tugs and serve as its support crew on shore. As a result, Boluda is neither a passer-by nor a speculator but a reliable partner with a good track record,” says Degroote.
2020 heralded the start of the construction of a new bridge over the Connection Dock. This will replace the temporary bridge. The bridge connects the outer port with the inner port and make it easier for motorised traffic and cyclists to pass through the port smoothly and safely. We started paying special attention to cyclists in the port several years ago. The Bicycle Master Plan, which was drawn up in2010, has been updated in collaboration with the City of Bruges and the Province of West Flanders. We are also making targeted investments with regard to bicycle accessibility.
The new bridge over the Connection Dock is part of a larger infrastructure project that will also open up the western inner port, including for cyclists.
Work is also taking place on nautical access to the inner port. Together with the Maritime Access Department, we are continuing to work on the renovation of the Pierre Vandamme Lock, one of the two sea locks. Because the second one, the lock at Visart, is rather outdated, a complex project for the construction of a new sea lock has been launched. This will be of crucial importance to– ensuring continued nautical access and the further development of the inner port and will safeguard the economic future of the Port of Zeebrugge.
The New Zeebrugge Lock is being realised pursuant to the Flemish government’s new approach to complex projects. This approach consists of four phases. The project is now in its third and penultimate phase: the implementation phase. You can read more about this on the website of the Flemish government dedicated to this project.