King Philippe of Belgium has recently paid a visit to the Port of Antwerp. The port is classified as an ‘essential national infrastructure’ because of its importance in keeping Belgium and a large part of Europe supplied.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, the port has remained 100% operational. The King wanted to see how this is being done in practice, and was keen to show his appreciation for the some 60 000 people who keep the port running day by day. His visit underlines the significance of the port and of the work being done by all those in these exceptional times.
Port remains 100% operational
The King began his visit at the MPET terminal, the largest container facility in Europe. Located in the Deurganck dock it handles some 9 million containers annually. He then went on to the Border Inspection Post on the left bank where the customs department and the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety work closely together at the same location. Since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, all players in the port's nautical and logistical chains have remained 100% operational, based on maintaining a personal distance of 1.5 m and preventive hygiene measures. The port has been able to keep operating normally thanks to the rapid introduction of such measures and the commitment of everyone involved.
This is crucial because the port is a vital link in the supply chain for the whole of Belgium and a large part of Europe. Essential goods such as foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, fuel and raw materials for other necessary products all transit through the port for further distribution throughout Europe. Port of Antwerp is therefore of vital importance for many regions and sectors of economic activity in Europe, both on the import and on the export side.
The King was given a briefing on the collaboration between port companies, logistics partners and government authorities in dealing with the corona crisis. He also spoke to a number of dock workers about how they are dealing with the corona measures and the impact on their work.
Innovation in times of crisis
The ability to innovate is a great advantage in times of crisis such as these. Port of Antwerp therefore prioritises innovation, acting as a flywheel for start-ups and Belgian entrepreneurship. One innovation that demonstrates the great flexibility of the port concerns the ‘smart bracelets’ from the technology company Rombit. The King was given explanations about this trial project due to be started shortly by the Port Authority. Initially intended to ensure the safety of nautical employees, use of this technology has been extended in just a few weeks to maintain social distancing and so to prevent corona contamination on the workfloor. Safety is of primordial importance for all employees in the port. This solution – which Antwerp Port Authority is the first to test – has attracted attention from all around the world. As such it is an example of Belgian innovation backed up by the strong brand image of Port of Antwerp.
Port of Antwerp CEO, Jacques Vandermeiren, declared: "We are particularly honoured by this visit from the King. As a major international port, we have a crucial role to play in this unprecedented crisis."
Port Alderman, Annick De Ridder, commented: "This visit once again emphasises that the work of the entire port community is of inestimable value. We remain 100% operational thanks, among other things, to the great flexibility of the port platform, so that supplies to our country and the rest of Europe are not compromised even in these crisis conditions. In this way we are able to give a powerful signal as the engine of the national economy and as a major international port.”