Antwerp port seeks Chinese traffic and investment

Updated: 2013-03-13 07:31

By Fu Jing (China Daily)

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The Belgian port of Antwerp, the second-biggest in Europe, is not only seeking to increase Chinese traffic, but also urging Chinese investors to get involved in a multibillion-euro expansion of the port.

Officials from Antwerp Port Authority have been in Ningbo, in Zhejiang province, and Shanghai to attract Chinese business partners and shipping companies, and have more visits planned in other Chinese port cities this year.

Luc Arnouts, its chief commercial officer, said he aims to attract Chinese interest to a city which is considered an ideal springboard to Europe.

He said that 60 percent of European purchasing power is located within a 500 kilometer radius of Antwerp, and the port is highly cost-efficient compared to other European sites.

Another highlight of his pitch to potential Chinese business partners is that Antwerp is serviced by one of the longest navigation channels in Europe, at 100 kilometers, enabling it to receive the very largest container vessels.

He said Chinese investors are being invited to participate in all the projects being planned at the port, including new logistics, loading and downloading services.

However, despite having more than 900 companies operating in the port area, only a handful are Chinese, including China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co and a few logistics companies.

Arnouts said the port is perfectly located to handle goods destined for France and Germany, particularly.

Antwerp port seeks Chinese traffic and investment

"We are always correcting the wrong impression that we are a port in a small country, Belgium. In fact, we are the second-biggest European port," said Arnouts. "This is very important for Chinese commercial decision makers, and we visit here three times a year to reinforce this message."

The main goods being shipped between China and Antwerp are containerized freight, metal products and chemicals.

In the opposite direction are containerized freight, ore and recycled metal, and petroleum products.

Arnouts said that by 2025, about 1.6 billion euro ($2.1 billion) is expected to have been invested in the expansion of Antwerp port, building its capacity on three fronts: cargo handling, logistics and general industrial facilities.

Specifically, authority officials are focusing on building a presence around the port for companies involved in the wind energy, automotive and chemical industries.

Arnouts admits Chinese investment in his port has been slow, with many potential investors still hesitant as a result of the ongoing European debt crisis.

However, he said he is confident of future investment, "as we are in a market with rich consumers and a stable legal framework".

Marc Van Peel, the authority chairman and vice-mayor of Antwerp, said trade between the city and China had expanded rapidly in recent years, and official figures show China is now its fourth-largest trading partner, contributing about 5 percent of Belgium's economy.

He added that his port has also become a learning hub for Chinese port management staff, with more than 3,000 going through training in Antwerp over the years.

Liu Jia contributed to this story