Often described as Belgium’s economic engine, the port of antwerp plays a crucial role in maritime trade. As Europe’s second largest port, antwerp port authority employs more than 1500 people and is spread across 29000 acres. Albiet a landlord port it plays an important role in day-day operations of the port. It provides tugs and cranes, carries out dredging work and promotes the port in Belgium and abroad.
Ms Annick De Ridder recently took over as the chairman of Port of Antwerp and vice-mayor urban planning and development of the City of Antwerp.
In an interview to Vizag Industrial Scan Ms Ridder talks about the port of Antwerp, some of the key learnings at the port and its role in India.
Edited excerpts of the interview below.
For the benefit of our readers could you briefly talk us through on the port of Antwerp?
The port of Antwerp is the 2nd largest port in Europe and has the advantage of being a seaport with an inland location, close to the heart of Europe. The port of Antwerp is a very diversified port : cargo handling, industry and value added logistics are the pillars on the basis of which a complete port eco-system has been built. For every type of cargo, the port of Antwerp can offer a solution.
How important is the Indian sub-continent to the Port of Antwerp?
The steady economic growth of India over the years and the prediction of an average 7 % GDP growth for 2019, only confirms our believe that India still has a huge potential.
India is one of our top 10 maritime partner countries and volumes have been growing steadily over the years. For the port of Antwerp, the main cargo flows with India are containerized and in 2018 we have recorded a growth rate of 4 % up to 365,000 TEU.
However, the main import and export flows between Belgium and India are precious stones. No wonder that both the cities of Antwerp and Surat are both called “Diamond city”.
Logistics and Evacuation are key at ports. What are some of the learning’s at PoA you would like to highlight?
The port of Antwerp in total covers a surface of more than 29,000 acres. Smooth cargo transit to and from the hinterland is an essential part of a port’s offering. Mobility is therefore one of our five strategic priorities in the business plan 2018-2020. Only a far-reaching modal shift will offer a sustainable solution. Hence we look at mobility of both cargo and people. Cargo-wise we aim at improving our modal shift by doubling the proportion of rail freight by 2030; increasing barge traffic; implementing improved traffic management and night logistics.
Initiatives such as a water bus and a bicycle bus will offer employees in the port an alternative to classic car commuting.
Could you share your thoughts on India’s ambitious Sagarmala project and how/if the PoA could participate in this project?
The Sagarmala is indeed very ambitious with its 400 projects. We do believe that there are quite some opportunities for our daughter company, Port of Antwerp International (PAI). PAI is able to assist regions and ports in expansion projects, renovation and even greenfield projects.
Automation -AI and robotics are now increasingly playing an important role in operations. Is PoA utilizing some of these technologies?
As a landlord port, we are not involved in operations ourselves. However one other strategic priority in our business plan is digital transition. To increase the effiency of the port platform as a whole and to reach our goals of a digital nervous system, we rely heavily on Internet of Things technology such as drones, sensors, autonomous vehicles of all sorts and smart camera’s. Several ongoing experiments are showing potential. Over time, these feeds will be integrated in a new operational system such as the digital twin called (digital representation of the actual port) called APICA (Antwerp Port Information and Communication Assistant). Drones hold huge potential for the port as a flying data platform. They can for instance collect data on oil spils, ship detection and others.
Autonomous and remote controlled shipping is another focus area: we developed a fully automonous sounding vessel, the Echodrone, on cloud based technology.
The state of AP is a significant maritime state in the country. Is the PoA be interested in exploring opportunities here?
Together with PoA we already keep close contact with ports in AP like Vizag and Krishnapatnam. And of course, Port of Antwerp International is always open to look into interesting opportunities.