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  • Writer's pictureFirst Port Global (FPG)

Brexit modal shift from ferry to shortsea

The port of Antwerp expects Brexit to entail a modal shift from ferry to shortsea container shipping

For the past 2-3 years, WorldCargo News has been reporting new and expanded shortsea services, lo-lo and ro-ro, aimed at offering shippers an alternative to the dominant Dover Straits (accompanied ferry and tunnel) supply chain model, which is most exposed of all surface transport options to post-Brexit borders.

Antwerp sees new opportunities for unaccompanied shipping services, and Brexit featured in the visit to Belgium by the new British ambassador to Belgium, H E Martin Shearman, who had already been hosted by the port of Zeebrugge, another established UK short sea port, the week before. The photo above shows Shearman (left) with the Port of Antwerp’s CEO, Jacques Vandermeiren.

Vandermeiren told the ambassador that Antwerp is gearing up for further expansion of shortsea links with the UK, "...thus offering at least part of the solution for the consequences of Brexit."

The UK is already Antwerp’s second largest trading partner with almost 17 Mt tonnes of freight in 2018. Europe’s second largest port currently accommodates six marine container liner services with the UK. This includes mixed shortsea/feeder services to GB ports and one service to Belfast.

Thanks to the taskforce of ‘Brexperts’ - which includes Belgian Customs, the Belgian Food Safety Agency and major port community and business representatives - Antwerp claims to be Brexit-ready. Advocating shortsea as a solution over ferry transport, Antwerp’s representative in the UK and Ireland, Justin Atkin, is cited in the press release about Ambassador Shearman’s visit. He stated that shortsea offers greater reliability to the logistics chain and helps reduce CO2 emissions.

The new ambassador also learned that Belgian customs are getting ready. "We have already hired an additional 386 full-time employees in order to deal with Brexit," explained Kristian Vanderwaeren, Director General of Belgian Customs & Excise. But he cautioned: "With 930,000 more import declarations and 4.5M more export declarations, the challenge facing us is enormous."

The Port of Antwerp has published a white paper aimed at "jolting companies" into taking a hard look at their logistics chain. It contains practical information on ways of using shortsea "to reduce future uncertainties or delays or even avoid them altogether."

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