Gateway to Europe

Every year, about 40 million tonnes of water-borne cargo is handled at the seaport of Ghent. Two thirds of this is transported on board seagoing vessels, which mainly import and export ores and metal residues, foodstuffs, animal feed, fossil and bio fuels, wood and forest products, building raw materials, chemicals, minerals and cars.

Another important part of the seagoing traffic that calls at the port of Ghent is traffic between European ports, called ‘short sea shipping’. Moreover, there is a major liner service between Ghent and Santos in Brazil. Inland navigation takes up the remaining third. An extensive network of inland waters, of which also the circular canal around Ghent forms part, links Ghent via rivers and canals with the North of France and with the European inland navigation network of the Rhine-Main-Danube waterways.

In the future, inland vessels will be able to sail from the port of Ghent to Paris, via the Seine-North project. On Friday 12th March 2010 the first milestone for this European inland navigation project was recorded, when the Flemish government (Waterways and Seacanal NV – Upper Scheldt department) started the construction of 6.5 kilometres of quay wall on the Noordvak (northern part) of the circular canal around Ghent. Additionally, the port lies at the crossroads of European motorways and is linked with the whole of Europe by rail.

Located on the Ghent-Terneuzen canal, the port experiences no tides, and is accessible to Panamax vessels up to 92,000 DWT having a maximum length of 265 metres, a beam of 37 metres and a draught of 12.5 metres. The port features five docks: Grootdok, Sifferdok, Mercatordok, Rodenhuizedok and the new Kluizendok, which is under development (4,000,000 m² of greenfield sites). The port area covers 4700 hectares or almost 10,000 football pitches, which comprises 28 km of quay walls, 140 km of roads and 220 km of railway tracks.

Alongside its own facilities, the port of Ghent is characterised by numerous companies that occupy prominent positions on a European and a world stage. The site includes Europe’s largest integrated steel mill, bio port and fruit juice terminal, as well as the largest newsprint mill in the world.

Despite the economic upheaval of the last year, the port of Ghent was among the strongest rising European seaports in first quarter of 2010, according to figures issued by the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) at its annual conference, which took place on May 27th and 28th, 2010 in Helsinki (Finland).

Port of Ghent figured second in the ranking of all European seaports concerning the increase of seaborne cargo traffic in the first quarter of 2010. For this period Ghent recorded seaborne cargo traffic of six million tonnes, an increase of 24 per cent over 2009.

In terms of percentage, Ghent ranked second as for the revival of the maritime goods traffic among the European seaports, after Zeebrugge and before La Spezia and Bremen among others. As a result of these figures, the port of Ghent confirmed its place as a stable, medium-sized European seaport.

The port of Ghent is managed by the Ghent Port Company ampc, which became operational in January 2000. As an autonomous municipal port company, it sees to it that the necessary and adequate infrastructure is present for a smooth handling of shipping and cargo traffic. It also makes sure that a favourable social and economic climate is created for the companies that are active in the port or wish to establish themselves there.

The Ghent Port company is especially dedicated to maintaining a green approach, and reflecting this the company’s new passive office building won a European ‘GreenBuilding award’ in April 2010.

The GreenBuilding award is an initiative by the European Commission and includes 13 countries of the European Union. It encourages organisations to use up less energy and reduce the CO2 emissions of their properties through energy efficiency and innovation. With its passive office building, Ghent Port Company was chosen as one of the winners in the best new project category.

Ghent Port Company’s offices are partially located in a passive office building that was taken into use in 2005. The newly built project was added as an extension to the original building and Ghent Port Company wanted to see its awareness of sustainable development reflected in its offices. It resolutely opted for a construction in which sustainable techniques and materials were at the centre.

For example, the company reused original cobblestones from the quay flooring at the Grootdok and ensured that all the furniture used has environment-friendly credentials.

As a result of its attention to detail, Ghent Port Company’s central building became the first office building in Belgium that was entirely constructed according to the ‘passive house’ concept. By making use of thorough insulation and sophisticated heat recuperation techniques, the energy consumption of the building could be reduced to an absolute minimum. Moreover, owing to the advanced insulation, air tightness, sunscreens and well-considered ventilation there is no need for air-conditioning installations or a classic heating appliance, although a small natural gas installation was placed for additional heating during winter. This installation can be compared to what is used in an average family home.

Ghent Port Company also had an eye for the building’s exterior. With a plain but still attractive architecture this building undoubtedly adds value to the industrial surroundings in which it is located.

Following the success of this project, the next new building at Ghent Port Company will also be a low energy building. A visitor’s centre at the beginning of the port, the Rigakaai, will be taken into use after the summer of 2011.

Further illustrating its green credentials, the port of Ghent actively participates in ‘Ghent Bio-Energy Valley’ a joint initiative by Ghent University and various public and private companies for the development and commercialisation of bio fuels and bio-energy. It offers strategically located sites, brings about synergies and promotes stevedoring expertise within Europe’s largest biocluster. At the moment, several bio-energy projects are operational in port of Ghent and others are in the pipeline. Port of Ghent also ensures that any wood (whether it comes from Northern Europe, the US, Asia or Africa) that is imported or distributed from its facilities is environment-friendly and sustainably harvested.

Belgium’s third largest port

Award win in 2010

Offers seagoing and inland navigation