In the 20th century, the emphasis of port policy was put strongly on economic development. The basic approach was to organise the diversified, constantly expanding flow of goods as efficiently as possible, and to ensure stable, extensive high-quality employment. These will remain the core tasks of the port community in future. In addition, however, the port activities are undoubtedly linked with a number of social concerns, among which management of the environment is playing a more prominent part. In order to secure the necessary continued basis of support for this, stakeholder management is being further developed. In the coming decades, the port will in addition strive for economic diversification, expanding the synergy between maritime trade, logistics and industry to include new, port-related services. And last but not least, efforts will continue towards reducing the environmental impact of hinterland transport.

The port of Antwerp sees itself as a port of and for people. This demands constant efforts to involve the city and the region, and to further develop local support. The high productivity for which our port is famous can only be secured by recruiting the right people in the right places. Matching supply to demand remains a challenge. A sustainable relationship with employees and determined promotion of port jobs will help to assure continuity of employment. All of this must be accomplished within a safe work environment.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that Antwerp's geographical location plays a unique role in any future-oriented transport policy. Where else in the world can the giant container carriers travel 80 km inland, right into the heart of the most urbanised and industrialised region of the globe? Sea transport has always been significantly cheaper than land transport, a situation that will become even more pronounced as a result of land transport becoming even more expensive under the influence of European and national regulations aimed at internalisation of external costs. Against such a background, the inland location of the port of Antwerp, with its trimodal facilities for hinterland transport, will offer an even greater advantage for limiting transport costs and minimising the transport-related environmental effects.

Concentrating the freight flows through a major international port also offers lots of new opportunities for an innovative mobility policy. The ultimate condition is of course that the transport of goods between maritime foreland and continental hinterland must flow smoothly and efficiently without any problems. But on the landward side too, the mainport model offers important benefits in terms of mobility management. Since Antwerp already has the necessary critical mass of freight volume – much more, in fact – large freight flows can be concentrated here. By consolidating this freight volume, it is possible to make better use of barge and rail transport, thus permitting a highly environment-friendly transport. This in turn results in a favourable modal split, which must further develop towards modes with lower environmental impact. But we have to stay realistic: road transport will inevitably continue to play an important role in hinterland transport, and so we are still faced with the challenge of making this mode as environment-friendly as possible by among other things further improving the technology of the vehicle fleet and raising the load factor.

Sustainability means not only maintaining and indeed reinforcing the competitive position of the port but also building upon a vital, crisis-resistant economic sector. Specifically for Antwerp this means developing a port economy that is as diversified as possible. Such diversification promotes stability and creates numerous synergies that reinforce the economic structure of the port, thus making it even more attractive.

Good management demands a stable strategic policy that does not change tack at every whim of the economic wind. With this Sustainability Report the port community seeks to:

  • expand the basis of support for sustainability to all port-related companies and players,
  • attract sustainable investments,
  • keep stakeholders informed and involve them in sustainability performance,
  • be an efficient, economically strong partner for our customers around the world, as part of the global supply chain.

The Sustainability Report offers a clear summary of a very large number of sustainability aspects. The first report was an exercise in benchmarking these aspects, while the second report looked at the progress after two years. This third report builds further on the work already done, but with more emphasis on examining developments and including a larger number of indicators to assess the position of Antwerp in terms of Planet, People and Prosperity. It is also a step towards framing the port-related activities within the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) laid down by the United Nations. Sustainable economic and industrial development with attention to people and the environment forms an integral part of these goals, and in its further sustainability path the port will actively bring its activities in line with the SDGs.

In the past few years the port of Antwerp has held regular consultations with all port-related partners, thus creating a greater feeling of community. This was the case with the Total Plan for a Competitive Port, the Business Plan for the port and the 2030-2050 Long-Term Vision for the port of Antwerp, which is currently being finalised. All these plans no longer focus exclusively on generating additional tonnage; instead, the central role is played by sustainable creation of added value for the region.