The UK is the third-largest maritime trading partner for the port of Antwerp. In order to be fully prepared for Brexit the Port Authority is taking various initiatives including the appointment of a new representative for the UK and Ireland. Justin Atkin has assumed this role as of 1 September 2018.
Third-largest maritime trading partner
With an annual freight volume of around 15 million tonnes the UK is the port of Antwerp's largest maritime trading partner after the USA and Russia. Antwerp is also ideally situated as an investment location close to the European centres of decision-making, and as the gateway to Europe from where the continent can be served quickly and efficiently, given that 50% of UK production is bound for continental Europe.
"The actual impact of Brexit is still uncertain," says Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Antwerp Port Authority. "Last year there was a decrease of nearly 8% in trade with the UK, probably due to this uncertainty. But with Brexit rapidly approaching we want to concentrate on maintaining and even expanding our market position within the United Kingdom."
One of the initiatives being taken by the Port Authority to achieve this goal is the appointment of a representative for the UK and Ireland. Justin Atkin has taken up this position as of 1 September 2018. Justin lives in Goxhill and has more than 20 years of experience in transport, shipping and logistics. For the past two years he has been owner of Ragged Edge Consulting Ltd, a consultancy for companies operating in ports, transport and logistics.
"The UK was always a self-evident market for us" explains Wim Dillen, Regional Development Manager at Antwerp Port Authority. "Brexit brings new challenges for us, and our new representative will act as our eyes and ears, keeping us in touch with the economic situation and the impact of Brexit on Antwerp's business. We also count on Justin to place Antwerp even more strongly on the map for the UK and Ireland, and to attract new sources of cargo and investment."
"Brexit is a big challenge for the business world, not in the least for ports serving the UK," says Justin Atkin. "Fortunately, however, the links and connections with the port of Antwerp are very strong. I will be able to draw on my many years of experience to further develop and expand these links."
In order to actively involve all other stakeholders in the initiatives, a Brexit taskforce has been set up with representatives of the port community, Customs & Excise and the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. In addition to the appointment of a special representative a roadshow is being planned early next year with among others a Port Day in Birmingham and a stakeholders' meeting in London. At these events, local shippers will be able to find out more about the current range of services and connections in the port of Antwerp and will get to know Antwerp logistic service providers in person.
"Of course we are doing everything possible to be fully prepared for Brexit. But the most desirable situation for us post Brexit would be that trading conditions remain as close as possible to what they are now” says Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Antwerp Port Authority. “Any obstacle to the free movement of goods, whether tariff or non-tariff, would in our opinion be prejudicial to trade relations between our port and the British market."