Harbour company Gent and Zeeland Seasports may merge

The Flemish Harbour company Gent and the Dutch Zeeland Seaports are taking further steps to strengthen their collaboration, with a merger as their ultimate goal. The harbour companies have conducted an investigation into the chances and possibilities of collaboration. In this exercise, the bureau McKinsey supported them. At the end of April 2017, the two companies want to know if a merger is the best option. This reconnaissance mission is, for both companies, the logical result of the already existing intense cooperation; the localization, the similar sizes of the harbours, and the strategic overlay. 

On Monday 7 November 2016, both companies signed, in the city hall of Gent, a memorandum of understanding for that purpose. 

The chairperson of Harbour company, Mathias De Clercq, and the chairperson of the Supervisory Board of Zeeland Seasports, Roelf H. de Boer, with the respective CEOs, Daan Schalck and Jan Lagasse, signed the memorandum of understanding around 6 o’clock in the evening. This all happened under the watchful eye of the Flemish Prime Minister, Geert Bourgeois, and the Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works, Ben Weyts, and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, and the Minister of Infrastructure and Environment, Schultz van Haegen. The signing took place at the end of the Flemish-Dutch Summit in the Pacification Hall in the City Hall of Gent.

Six months investigation
Harbour company Gent and Zeeland Seasports (with the harbour areas of Vlissingen, Terneuzen, and Borsele) will investigate possibilities during the next six months, including taxation, administrative and legal structure, relations with the national and regional governments, harbour dues, and prices for concessions and services. 

Logical result
This further collaboration is a logical result of the already existing intense cooperation, the localization, the similar sizes of the harbours, and the strategic overlay. After all, it concerns one contiguous economic zone of Vlissingen, Borsele, and Terneuzen, all the way to Gent. The size and strategy of both harbour companies is similar in many ways: focusing on clustering activities, bulk ports, large industrial presence, high additional value, and high employment rate. There is already some cooperation in various areas: the new sluice of Terneuzen, joint maritime supervision, promoting commercial trump cards of the region on fairs, and harbour infrastructure. 

New dynamics
Both managements are 100% behind the merger reconnaissance mission, especially because of the interests of the companies in the harbour and the social-economic function for the region. 

Jan Lagasse, CEO Zeeland Seasports: “An intensive partnership will only benefit us, according to our conviction. There are benefits for the existing and new companies that will find a solid partner to support them; benefits for the involved regions that will belong to the top of Europe with a combined harbour company, and benefits for both harbour companies and their employees, who will be able to operate more professionally with the larger critical mass. This will undoubtedly create new dynamics in the Flemish-Dutch river delta.”

Daan Schalk, CEO of Harbour Company Gent: “This is for Harbour Company Gent the best project so far. Together, we will get into the top 10 of European harbours. This means a lot for the power we want to show as a harbour in a field that is becoming more and more globalized. This increased power is, above all, very positive for the businesses in the harbour, but also for the whole region.”

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