The birth of a double port
The negotiations went on for a long time, but at the start of the year Zeeland Ports and Ghent entered into a new deal establishing a binational North Sea Port.
We are living in an age of mergers. The latest example thereof reminds us of a deal signed early in 2015, when the US ports of Seattle and Tacoma, both located close to Canada in the US state of Washington, formed the Northwest Seaport Alliance. Now a similar process has been completed in Europe with the merger of the Dutch port authority Zeeland Seaports (ZSP) and Belgium’s Ghent Port Company, which entered into effect on 1 January 2018.
The new association, called North Sea Port, will be headquartered in the southern Dutch port of Terneuzen, close to the Border with Belgium. The two firms, which had been in talks since November 2016 and had presented their plans to the public for the first time in August 2017, now form one legal entity in a new Ghent-based holding. The ownership of the new entity sees Ghent, located inland in the Belgian province of East Flanders, hold 48.52%, the Dutch province of Zeeland 25% and the Dutch local authorities of Terneuzen, Borsele and Vlissingen 8.33% each. The province of East Flanders and its Evergem and Zelzate local authorities own the remainder as small shareholders.
ZSP and Ghent expect the merger to fortify their growth. Their plans envisage added value growing by 10% by 2022, with maritime throughput increasing from 62 to about 70 million t. The target for inland traffic, which stand at 55 million t today, is to handle 60 million t. One of the keys to implementing the plan is a promise to increase the number of employees from around 97,000 today to more than 100,000.