Maritime transport and ports | Kustportaal

Maritime transport and ports

More than 80% of global trade (in volume) is transported by sea, accounting for 10.3 billion tonnes of goods in 2016. On 1 January 2017, the world trade fleet consisted of 93,161 vessels with a total dead-weight tonnage (DWT) of 1.86 billion.

In the Belgian part of the North Sea, the shipping routes for seagoing vessels are defined by the marine spatial plan (MSP, RD of 20 March 2014, see also Van de Velde et al. 2014). Within these zones, shipping has priority over other activities. Since 1 June 2017, new shipping routes have been applicable within Belgian and Dutch waters that take into account the current and future development of wind farms, in order to maintain and promote safety at sea.

Thorough spatial planning with attention to the safety aspect is an important factor given the location of the Belgian seaports and Scheldt ports at one of the busiest shipping routes in the world: 156,527 shipping movements of which 41.6% by seagoing vessels in 2017. In the same year, total cargo traffic in the Le Havre-Hamburg range amounted to 1.163 billion tonnes, of which Antwerp accounted for 223.7 million tonnes, followed by Zeebrugge (37.1 million tonnes), Ghent (32.5 million tonnes) and Ostend (1.4 million tonnes) (Merckx 2018).

This high economic activity creates a high economic added value. The total added value of the Flemish ports amounted to 31 billion euros in 2016, with a distinction being made between direct (16.2 billion euros) and indirect (14.8 billion euros) added value. The port of Antwerp generates the highest direct added value and accounts for 10.8 billion euros, followed by Ghent (3.9 billion euros), Zeebrugge (1 billion euros) and Ostend (0.5 billion euros) (Merckx 2018; Coppens et al. 2018). The inland seaports (Liège and Brussels) account for a relative share of 9.6% (1.8 billion euros) of the total Belgian ports.

In 2016, total employment in the Flemish seaports amounted to 230,340 full-time equivalents (FTE), of which 103,333 were direct FTEs. Antwerp is also the most important Flemish port in terms of employment and accounts for about 68.9% of the people employed in the sector, followed by Ghent (27.1%), Zeebrugge (9.3%) and Ostend (4.8%) respectively (Merckx 2018; Coppens et al. 2018).

More info on

Marine Spatial Planning
Ship and cargo traffic
Socio-economy ports