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Maritime & Transport Business Solutions (MTBS) proudly participated in the recent Port and Terminal Seminar organized by the TT Club at the World Port Center in Rotterdam on April 11, 2024. Our Director of Growth and Transformation, Dr. Indra Vonck, joined experts from leading organizations across the maritime and logistics sectors to delve into pressing industry issues and evolving trends. The seminar provided valuable insights and fostered meaningful dialogue among industry professionals, reinforcing MTBS’ commitment to driving positive change within the maritime sector through collaboration and innovative solutions.

The section below presents some key learnings from the seminar.

Uncertain future

Slowing global trade, uncertainty, and necessary investments to achieve reduced emissions are just a few challenges for the port sector. Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly complicated to protect ports from the organized drug world. “Almost always, someone from within is involved in drug smuggling,” warned Lieselot Bisschop, professor of criminology, during the meeting of the TT Club.

An expected growth in cargo, new investments, lack of space, strict laws and regulations, declining fossil flows, and slowing world trade are putting pressure on the number of ship movements, total tonnage, and the number of rented square meters. This is how Indra Vonck describes the current situation of the port and terminal sector.

“Against the risk of declining revenues, there is certainty of higher expenses,” says Dr. Vonck. “Both public and private parties look to port authorities to bear these costs or provide support from their landlord function. In addition to the upfront investment, this also impacts the way of working and the required knowledge of port managers.” According to Dr. Vonck, it comes down to ports needing to better plan and phase their investments, collaborate across port borders, and invest in people and knowledge.

Shock resistant

“As a result of disruptions in various areas, we are dealing with slower growth. Ports have proven to be resilient and shock resistant through all disruptions, but sensible investments in infrastructure will be required to support the new energy economy. Port authorities must be aware of the facilitating role they play towards investors and lessors to develop as innovation hubs in the energy transition. Even if we assume steady growth and stabilization of monetary policy, the costs for the port and shipping sector to prepare for sustainability are extremely high”, Mr. Vonck believes.

This is also confirmed by the CFOs of Port of Moerdijk, Marika Menschaar, and Sofie Monteyne, CFO of North Sea Port (NSP). Ms. Menschaar adds that another significant bottleneck is also at the top of her list of challenges: grid congestion. “That is currently the biggest impediment and something I am most concerned about. If we want to enable the energy transition on time, we need investors and companies. That is very difficult now because of grid congestion. Another accompanying problem is that we are dealing with insufficient space and need to manage the available space carefully and make strategic choices.”

Business Model

Ms. Monteyne suggests that port companies should also reflect more on their business model for the future. “Different connections between the private and public sectors are needed to realize the new economy. For example, since last year, we have become shareholders in Pipelink, a subsidiary of Port of Antwerp-Bruge, where we collaborate in the development of pipeline projects, which are also intended for the capture and storage of CO2.

For Lieselot Bisschop, the port of Rotterdam is “a large living lab.” As a professor of criminology at Erasmus University in the city of Rotterdam, she deals with the approach to drug crime in the port. “I’m not talking about drug-related, undermining crime, but call it international organized crime unequivocally, because that’s what we’re dealing with here,” says Ms. Bisschop.

“To know how to tackle this, it is important to study how it exactly works. What we can definitely state is that in all cases of drug smuggling, there is assistance from within. That is a significant vulnerability and means that companies in the port need to know their employees well. HR policy is crucial: know your own employees and also know when their home or work situation changes.”


In the fight against drug smuggling in the port of Rotterdam, drones are also being used, reports Ingrid Römers, senior advisor Port of Rotterdam, who is involved in the low-level airspace and drones strategy of the port company. “We do everything to detect unwanted drones and check suspicious movements,” says Ms. Römers. The technological development of drones is progressing rapidly and that besides ‘ordinary’ drones in the air, there are also underwater drones, promising better protection both above and below the water.