75th anniversary of Albert canal marks start of future-oriented collaboration agreement

Contrat de collaboration_en haut_Erik Portugaels_Emile-Louis Bertrand_en bas_Eddy Bruyninckx_Willy Claes_Willy Demeyer

On 31 March 2014, Antwerp Port Authority has signed a collaboration agreement with the waterway operator De Scheepvaart NV and Port Autonome de Liège to develop the importance of the Albert canal as a vital economic artery linking Antwerp and Liège. Antwerp Port Authority has signed a collaboration agreement with the waterway operator De Scheepvaart NV and Port Autonome de Liège to develop the importance of the Albert canal as a vital economic artery linking Antwerp and Liège. The agreement was signed during a symposium on 31 March to mark the 75th anniversary of the Albert canal. The event highlighted the economic and social role of the Albert canal in the past, present and future.

With this agreement the three parties undertake to carry out a number of practical initiatives for developing the Albert canal as a major logistics lifeline. In the first instance the parties have committed themselves to ensuring appropriate and efficient barge transport infrastructure and to exchanging information and know-how on logistics flows. Further, the parties will support the promotion of container terminals along the canal to serve as jumping-off points for truck drivers, shippers and forwarders in Germany and the immediate hinterland. Finally, under the terms of this agreement the parties will strive to improve the reliability and transparency of barge transport on the Albert canal. The progress of the planned initiatives will be monitored at periodic consultations between the parties.

The Albert canal is of crucial importance for the port of Antwerp, linking it to inland terminals along the canal, the port of Liège and on to the European hinterland. “This collaboration fits in perfectly with our present hinterland policy,” declared Eddy Bruyninckx, CEO of Antwerp Port Authority. “This includes among other things improving the modal split, doing away with operational and infrastructural obstacles to hinterland transport and attracting logistics flows from the hinterland to the port of Antwerp.”

The Albert canal is also an essential link for the entire barge sector in Liège. As an instrument for economic development it is important and relevant not only for Liège but also for the whole of Wallonia. Emile-Louis Bertrand, general manager of Port autonome de Liège, explained: “The main aim is to strengthen the links between the port of Antwerp, De Scheepvaart NV and Port autonome de Liège. A logistics hub such as Liège is an important factor for the success of the port of Antwerp, which naturally seeks to develop the connections with its hinterland. I would also draw attention to the excellent collaboration with De Scheepvaart NV, which enables the respective port authorities to boost their freight volumes. The port of Liège and the Albert canal are priority connections within the core European network of waterways. This makes Liège a unique partner with a European dimension. We all stand to benefit from this, and I look forward to the continuation of this strong partnership.”

“For De Scheepvaart NV this collaboration agreement is particularly important,” said CEO Erik Portugaels. “Over the past 75 years the Albert canal has developed into an industrial artery. The great majority of cargo carried on the canal comes from or is destined for the port of Antwerp or Liège. The proximity to these ports is often the decisive argument for companies locating on the industrial sites along the canal. This collaboration agreement will enable the needs of the different partners to be coordinated even better in future, so creating a win-win situation for everyone involved. It will also enable us to offer an even better service to companies and the barge operators.”

Various current and future infrastructure projects will increase the capacity of the Albert canal. For instance De Scheepvaart will raise the height of all 62 bridges over the canal so as to offer the agreed European clearance of 9.10 meters by 2020. This will enable barges to carry containers stacked four-high instead of three-high as at present. To cope with the expected increase in freight volume, the possibilities for expanding the capacity of the Wijnegem lock complex are being studied, with the aim of guaranteeing a smooth throughput. Improvements such as these will make barge transport on the Albert canal not only more efficient and cost-effective but above all faster, thus helping to take even more trucks off the congested motorways.