23 EU ambassadors visit North Sea Port in Zeeland

Published on Wed 10 Apr 2024
At the invitation of the Embassy of Belgium in The Hague, 23 ambassadors from EU countries paid a visit to the Zeeland part of North Sea Port. The working visit on Wednesday 10 April was prompted by the Belgian presidency of the European Union.

The large diplomatic delegation was received by the CEO of North Sea Port, Daan Schalck, and the King's Commissioner for Zeeland, Han Polman.

A leader in Europe's energy transition

The North Sea Port cross-border port area is the site of numerous investments that are putting the port at the forefront of the energy transition in Europe. CEO Daan Schalck and CSO Maarten den Dekker explained the ambitious developments and initiatives during a tour of the port area in Vlissingen and Borsele: the import of hydrogen for industry, the construction in Vlissingen of the Princess Elisabeth energy island to be located off the Belgian coast, the construction of hydrogen plants and the impressive offshore sites for offshore wind farms – these are some examples of crucial developments for the energy transition in the Netherlands, Belgium and Europe. The dialogue between the ambassadors and the North Sea Port management centred on North Sea Port’s sustainability ambitions and the need for further cooperation between European ports, industry and governments within Europe.

Anick Van Calster, the Belgian ambassador to the Netherlands: "As part of the activities to mark Belgium's EU presidency in the Netherlands, a visit to the European port North Sea Port is completely in line with priority themes such as the energy transition, sustainability, mobility and circularity. It is also a great example of cross-border cooperation, which can undoubtedly inspire other EU member states."

As a cross-border port, international cooperation is in North Sea Port’s DNA, so to speak. The unique importance and character of North Sea Port was the theme of the speech delivered by Han Polman, the King's Commissioner for the Province of Zeeland.

Han Polman, King's Commissioner: "The New Lock represents an important stage in the development of the European TenT Scheldt-Seine link, making Zeeland the gateway to the rest of Europe. We are addressing barriers at the border through the Dutch-Flemish Forum (Schakelpunt Grensbelemmeringen Vlaanderen-Nederland', which will develop a methodology to remove obstacles to cross-border cooperation."

Investment in international chemicals

North Sea Port is home to many different companies operating in the chemicals industry. The delegation paid a visit to one of them, Dow Benelux. At the Terneuzen Diamond Center office, Tabita Verburg, Area President Dow Benelux, outlined the strategy and investments of the international chemicals conglomerate. Dow Benelux is the largest employer in Zeelandic-Flanders, with more than 3,500 employees representing 50 nationalities. Dow explained how it is helping to solve the energy and climate crisis by bringing together chemicals with science and sustainable choices. Again, the importance of European cooperation was emphasised.

New Lock connects the Netherlands, Belgium and France

The visit was rounded off with a tour of one of the biggest locks in the world, the New Lock. After five years of construction, this investment by the Flemish and Dutch governments, North Sea Port and the European Union will officially open in October this year. The New Lock will allow larger ocean-going vessels to pass from the Western Scheldt to Terneuzen and Ghent. Stakeholder manager Harm Verbeek described the construction of the lock, which along with the two adjacent locks makes up the North Sea locks.

Peter van Parys, COO of North Sea Port, explained that the New Lock will reinforce the port's central position on European transport corridors, since the complex is part of a major Western European shipping route between Rotterdam, North Sea Port and Paris. As such, the North Sea Locks and the Terneuzen-Ghent Canal represent one of the main arteries of the economies of the Netherlands, Flanders and Belgium.

Daan Schalck, CEO of North Sea Port: "The visit by 23 EU ambassadors gives us the opportunity to further emphasise the European ambitions of our port and region – Zeeland and Ghent – in Europe. We note that our desire for deeper cooperation with ports and companies in Europe is fully recognised. This is an important signal, given the major challenges and opportunities facing ports and industry in Europe."