Inland shipping boosts transhipment in Ghent harbour
Ghent port CEO Daan Schalk and Ghent port alderman Christophe Peeters Open VLD have called on the government of Flanders to consider the urgency of a new sea lock in Terneuzen. In 2011 the Ghent harbour handled a record 50 million tonnes of cargo transhipment – mostly thanks to inland shipping. Failure to build another lock could result in the loss of maritime traffic to Dutch ports. The impressively high tonnage handled by the harbour is the port’s second achievement in a row, as inland shipping traffic has increased by 1.400 additional ships to 16,236 from the previous year. Inland cargo grew by 10.6% to 22.8 million tons at a time when maritime cargo traffic stagnated at 27.2 million tons. Only last week De Scheepvaart, the bigger of two Flemish agencies which control Flemish rivers and channels, released record figures for 2011. More and more businesses are choosing transport by inland shipping to escape the scourge of traffic jams and high fuel prices, the umbrella organisation Binnenvaart Vlaanderen Inland Shipping Flanders confirmed. Despite these positive figures, Peeters and Schalk warn against complacency. “We are keen supporters of inland shipping, but this growth spurt will not last for ten years,” Schalk maintains. “Many businesses will prefer to use maritime shipping, as it is much more efficient.” But in this respect Ghent has a handicap. “Despite the fact that volumes have remained stable, 85 less sea ships entered the harbour during the past year,” Peeters confirms. “Every year the ships grow in size.” According to Peeters, the bigger ships increasingly opt for Rotterdam in view of the limited capacity of Flemish harbours. “This is why the Terneuzen sea lock is so crucial. Otherwise we will literally miss the boat.” Flanders and the Netherlands have been negotiating on the matter for some years now. In January 2011 the governments reached an agreement, but since then little progress has been made. “In 2011 we agreed on the exact location and type of lock,” says spokesperson for Flemish Mobility Minister Hilde Crevits CD&V. There have been delays because our officials have to discuss every issue with their Dutch colleagues.” Alderman Peeters and minister Crevits are nevertheless optimistic about making the 2018 deadline.