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North Sea Port, Zeeland Regional Safety Board and Central Fire Response Zone join forces for cross-border incident response in the port area

Published on Tue 19 Oct 2021
Zeeland Regional Safety Board, Central Fire Response Zone (Ghent and surrounding area) and North Sea Port are joining forces to enhance cross-border cooperation when tackling incidents in the port area. They have signed a cooperation agreement to this end.

There is strict legislation at European, Dutch and Flemish levels to limit incidents and emergencies in the port area as far as possible. However, despite extreme vigilance, things sometimes go wrong in the port area and incidents need to be tackled –

a ship collides with a bridge, requiring shipping traffic to be held up; a fire in a company generates smoke that is visible for miles around; oil spills onto the water and is blown along by the wind. These are a few examples of potential incidents in a port. In the North Sea Port area, their impact is quickly felt across the Dutch-Belgian border. This calls for good coordination between emergency services on the Zeeland and Ghent sides of the border and the port management authority, North Sea Port.

Joint deployment of people, expertise and equipment

Until now, Zeeland Regional Safety Board, Central Fire Zone and North Sea Port have followed their own procedures and methods when tackling such incidents. Under this agreement, the three parties are extending their existing cooperation by jointly handling incident response as if there were no border. The preparations for and organisation of incident response will henceforth take place jointly in order to increase safety in the port and keep the port area accessible to shipping, businesses and employees.

This will be achieved by drawing up incident/emergency plans and holding joint drills, and by sharing people, expertise and equipment. The intention is to share information about risks and maritime safety. Arrangements will be made about communication across the border in the event of a crisis. The focus will be on increasing expertise and preparing facilities to assist victims and accommodate the emergency services.

Guaranteeing safety in and around the port

By working together in this way, the three partners aim to be better prepared to respond to incidents in the port area, across the border, in order to guarantee safety in the port and the surrounding area. Zeeland Regional Safety Board and Central Fire Zone (Ghent and surrounding area) both have a statutory duty to organise incident response. As the managing authority of the port area, North Sea Port is responsible for making sure shipping traffic proceeds smoothly and safely.

This cooperation agreement was established with the support of the Scheldemond Euregion Fund.

Daan Schalck CEO, North Sea Port:

“As the managing authority for the port area, it is important that we guarantee shipping and safety in the port. This partnership will enhance our ability to perform this duty, to the benefit of businesses and local residents.”

Edith van der Reijden, director of Zeeland Regional Safety Board:

“As a border region, we are keenly aware that an incident or crisis does not end at the border. For this reason, Zeeland Regional Safety Board is pleased with this close partnership to prepare and organise incident response. Together we will make the region safer on both sides of the border.”

Colonel Wim Van Zele, zone commander for Central Fire Zone:

“In the event of a major incident in the port, it is crucial to have short lines of communication with North Sea Port and our Dutch colleagues. By working together more and holding joint drills, we will gain a lot of time if there is an industrial intervention in the port. We will need each other in the future, because emergency response doesn’t end at the border.”