Port of Antwerp Collaboration with Houston
The USA is an important trading partner for the port of Antwerp. With a freight volume of 21 million tons (2013) America is Antwerp’s largest overseas trading partner by far. To further strengthen the trade relations between the two regions a delegation from the port of Antwerp will be leaving for Houston at the end of September. There are striking similarities between the two ports, with each being home to a very large petrochemical cluster. Signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between Houston and Antwerp will deepen the collaboration. After calling at Houston the delegation will make a first visit to Atlanta.
The port of Antwerp is home to the largest and most diversified integrated chemical cluster in Europe. It is no coincidence that seven out of the ten largest chemical concerns in the world have a production site here. In addition to the many large investments that have already been made, new investment is constantly needed to maintain development of the sector, and so the Port Authority makes strenuous efforts to facilitate investment from A to Z, from initial concept to operational start-up. For example, the American company ExxonMobil is to begin construction of a new Delayed Coker Unit in the port on 2 October. The unit, which will convert heavy, high-sulphur residue oil into transport fuels such as diesel and gasoil for shipping, represents an investment of more than 1 billion dollars in the existing refinery in Antwerp. In the recent past there have been other large investments by BASF, Total, Praxair, Evonik Industries and others. The port of Antwerp has a whole series of advantages for developing industrial activities into profitable investments: not only is it the main hub for the West European pipeline network, but thanks to its strategic location in the heart of the European production and consumption market it also offers companies an extremely well organized logistics platform with lots of possibilities for transport to and from the hinterland. In addition the port of Antwerp is ideally situated for importing raw materials and supplying overseas markets. Furthermore the port has an excellent network of logistics and maintenance partners, as well as highly-qualified dock workers who contribute towards the high standards in terms of efficiency and operational excellence in this sector. Finally there are the programs of collaboration with the regional and local authorities – such as FISCH (Flanders Innovation hub for Sustainable Chemistry) – aimed at securing the future of the chemical industry in the port area.
Future of the chemical industry
In recent years, however, questions have been asked about the future of the European petrochemical industry now that the development of among other things shale gas in the United States has expanded so dramatically. This is one of the aspects that will be dealt with by the port of Antwerp during a seminar in Houston. According to Wouter De Geest, chairman of Essenscia (Belgian federation of the chemical industry and life sciences), integration is key for the future. “The chemical cluster is well aware of this challenge,” he confirms. “The response of the European petrochemical cluster must lie in even greater integration throughout the chain of value, and the development of products in proximity to the customer. The more integration is pursued within Europe, the greater the development opportunities for the petrochemical cluster."
During the mission Antwerp and Houston will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to further develop the collaboration between them. Under the terms of this agreement they will exchange information about among other things customs and security procedures. They will also collaborate in marketing and business development, and a commercial event will be held each year, alternating between Antwerp and Houston. Finally, the program will include participation in the annual Breakbulk Americas conference. As the largest breakbulk port in Europe, Antwerp will naturally be there with a stand!
Making acquaintance with Atlanta
After Houston the roadshow will head for Atlanta, where the ports of Savannah and Charleston send large cargo volumes to Antwerp. This will be a first acquaintance in the form of workshops and networking events.
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