Opting for a large and deep sea lock
The Port Company is really elated that by this agreement Flanders and the Netherlands explicitly opt for the realization of a large and deep sea lock. After all, this choice entails the preparation, construction and infrastructural management and maintenance over a period of 30 years of a large deep sea lock within the existing lock complex. Moreover, the Port Company is pleased with the dimensions that are taken as point of departure: 427 m x 55 m x 16 m.
Better maritime access is important sign for investors
This explicit confirmation of a large and deep sea lock and the said dimensions now already enable the Port Company together with present and future firms to adapt their investment policies to this. As a matter of fact, the improved accessibility is of great importance to all sectors active in Ghent: from the handling of bulk, the automotive industry, the steel and scrap sectors to the sectors of biomass, ro/ro-services, distribution and logistics.
In addition, this improved maritime access offers the inland navigation sector between Ghent and its hinterland quite a lot of opportunities. Ghent intends to dedicate itself even more to this transport mode in the future.
The present Westsluis (western lock) is at this moment the smallest sea lock in the Hamburg-Le Havre range but at the same time it is also the busiest lock of its kind. The new large sea lock will put an end to the difficulties that navigation is now experiencing at the lock complex. The present sea lock is at present the only – and consequently extremely sensible – access for the 3,500 seagoing vessels that sail from and to Ghent every year carrying over 27 million tonnes of goods. Moreover, congestion often arises at the lock owing to which waiting times increase. Besides, the always increasing seagoing vessels also ask for a larger, second sea lock. This can improve the companies’ competitive strengths as larger vessels carrying more cargo create a cost decrease for the companies.
Start of plan making
The agreement at the same time sets out the course for starting the plan execution phase. The Port Company is especially happy with the time span of two years that is being observed. This period is meant among other things for going through the zoning procedures (environmental impact statement, location plan…), to investigate the development of a financial model and to acquire European subsidies.
It is also during this plan execution phase that the Flemish authorities and Ghent Port Company will come to further agreements on the financial contribution by the Port Company.
Moreover, the Port Company is delighted that the agreement pays the necessary attention to a widening of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal after the realization of the new sea lock.
Widely supported choice
Ghent Port Company and numerous firms have been arguing for a long time already for a large and deep sea lock in Terneuzen. This plea has been widely supported for years on end.
The new large sea lock is crucial to have the port expand beyond the present cargo traffic of 50 million tonnes, to strengthen its international position and create new jobs.
As a matter of fact, port of Ghent is the second largest economic zone in Belgium. The port represents 70,000 jobs, accounting for 15% of employment in the province of East-Flanders. Some 300 companies in and around the port generate an added value of 7 billion euros. Ghent creates an added value per tonne of cargo traffic that is three times higher than in many Flemish ports.
Every year, Ghent counts 600 million euros of private and public investments in the maritime and non-maritime sectors. By this investment in the new large sea lock the Flemish authorities indicate that they equally want to enlarge and improve their infrastructure on behalf of port of Ghent.
What (recently) preceded
Already in 1968 on the occasion of the opening of the present Westsluis it was stated that in the future a second large sea lock would be necessary. More than 40 years later now, an agreement has come into being between Flanders and the Netherlands on its financing.
Recently, a number of steps were taken in this direction. In January 2011 Flemish minister of mobility Hilde Crevits and her Dutch Transport colleague, Melanie Schultz van Haegen already agreed that the new lock in Terneuzen was to be a large sea lock. Both ministers came to an understanding on the basic financing agreement in July 2011. At the annual New Year reception of Ghent port on Friday, January 20, 2012, minister Hilde Crevits announced the signing of the present agreement on the cost division and the plan execution phase for the new large sea lock.
Ghent Port Company is of course extremely pleased with this next, historic step towards an improved maritime access to the port. It is especially delighted with the perseverance by Flemish minister Hilde Crevits, the continuing efforts by Wivina Demeester as president of the Flemish delegation of negotiators to come to this next agreement and this decision by the Flemish government on the financing of the new lock.