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Green investment wave at Flanders' North Sea Port

Something green is bubbling at North Sea Port Ghent in Flanders. Various companies have recently announced big ecological investments. Experts agree that Ghent, the capital of East Flanders, and its port area have much to offer to strategically important projects.

Winds of change

North Sea Port Ghent has been moving toward a more ecological approach for years. Many local companies are accelerating their efforts to become greener – and it shows. What’s more, the Ghent branches of large multinationals often serve as pilot projects, and that’s strategically important as well.

One glimpse at this impressive list confirms this green new reality:

  • US agribusiness giant Cargill is building a EUR 140-million biodiesel plant.
  • Biofuel producer Alco Bio Fuel is investing EUR 10 million to recycle 60,000 tons of CO2.
  • Together with the CMB shipping group, Ghent engine builder ABC is developing the first-ever engine to run on hydrogen and diesel.
  • Steel giant ArcelorMittal joins forces with Engie and PMV to convert CO2 into methanol.
  • Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks chose Ghent as the location for their European battery production units for e-cars and e-trucks.

Green is the new black

According to experts, this green wave in Ghent is not a coincidence. Geert Moerman, managing director at chamber of commerce and industry Voka East Flanders, explains: “Flanders has a talented pool of pragmatic engineers. Meanwhile, international branches in Ghent have strong reputations for converting concepts into tangible products and processes. Besides that, North Sea Port has been focused on sustainability for a long time now. We see clusters of companies aligning their activities with one another. In doing so, they receive the support of the local government as well as UGent, one of Flanders’ leading academic institutions.”

Flanders has a talented pool of pragmatic engineers.

Geert Moerman
managing director of Voka East Flanders

Another factor that constantly comes into play is the strategic location of Ghent and Flanders as a whole. “Ghent is the center point of the European manufacturing scene,” says Pascal Meersschaert, strategic director of Volvo Trucks. “What’s more, the plant in Flanders is highly acclaimed within the Volvo group, especially in terms of quality and innovation.”

That’s why the production site in Ghent was selected to manufacture the first Volvo e-trucks. Ben van Roose from tech federation Agoria confirms that assembly plants in Flanders and Belgium are rising in the value chain. One more example of this is the news that the first fully electric Audi is built at the factory in Brussels.

Joint efforts for a greener future

But that’s not all. According to Daan Schalck, CEO of North Sea Port, the green transformation is the result of a much bigger mentality shift among businesses.

If companies want to be relevant in the future, they have to board the green train. The more we work together, the better. That’s why, at North Sea Port Ghent, we work together with universities, research institutes and start-ups. The latter often collaborate very well with large companies.

Daan Schalck
CEO of North Sea Port

To come full circle, Daan Schalck has big ambitions to further reduce the port’s CO2 emissions: “We need to build even more networks in which companies exchange their CO2 and heat with each other. One company's residual product or waste stream then becomes another company's raw material. When granting new port concessions, we consider whether companies fit into that sustainable picture.”

About Belgium and Flanders

With Dutch as its official language, Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen) is the autonomous northern region of Belgium. The capital of both Belgium and Flanders is Brussels.

More info

North Sea Port
Reported by
newspaper De Standaard
11 January 2021

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