When coffee travels from tree to cup, it will most likely spend some time in warehouses. First the beans need to be stored at the producing farm, then at the port of the country of origin, and eventually at the port of destination and the roasters’ warehouse. This week, we will take a look at the goldmine where the lion’s share of 32cup’s spot coffee is stored: the Port of Antwerp. In the first two parts of this review, we tackled the Port’s history and its current importance to Europe and the coffee world. Now, it’s time to look ahead in Part 3: The Future.

Two of the most important issues every Western city have to face, are Mobility on the one hand, and Sustainability on the other. Finding creative solutions for these challenges can play a vital role in how cities and countries will emerge in the future. Furthermore, the adequacy and timing with which these issues are solved, can determine the future viability of new investments. That is why it is paramount for Antwerp to get a firm grip on these challenges.

[h3]The Mobility Issue[/h3]

Antwerp is an ever growing metropolis, but its road infrastructure is not up to the task anymore. One of the main issues is that the Ring road around Antwerp is not fully closed, causing major traffic jams every day. This is problematic for both economic and ecological reasons, so in 2003, regional and federal governments cooperated and put forward the Masterplan 2020. The Masterplan entails a long-term, multi-faceted plan that will improve mobility in and around Antwerp significantly, tackling public transportation (bus, tram and train), waterways (locks, canals and bridges) and road infrastructure. One of the most important projects is the Oosterweel connection, which will finally close the Ring around Antwerp. The exact modalities of the Oosterweel-connection have been subject to debate ever since it was first presented in 1995, eventually culminating in a referendum in 2009 that delayed the project even further. Nevertheless, the responsible governments are confident that the execution of the Oosterweel-connection (in whatever form) will take place in 2015. In 2021, the 15km long development should be finished, thus relieving the Ring and the city of Antwerp of its superabundant traffic.

Oosterweel connection

Three of the five remaining hypothetical tracks for the Oosterweel connection. Left: BAM track. Middle: ARUP-SUM track. Right: Meccano track.

[h3]The Sustainability Challenge[/h3]

Another challenge for corporations and governments in the 21st Century is the global warming issue. All eyes are on the Port, where the three P’s are more salient than anywhere: People, Planet and Profit. That is why the Antwerp Port Authority is committed to start and strengthen more sustainability projects. Antwerp wants to position itself as the sustainability leader in the Hamburg – Le Havre range, and focuses on sustainable energy resources. One of the more ambitious plans, for example, is to save energy by recovering the residual heat of industrial machinery. Also, the Port aims at its renewable energy supply through the implementation of a biomass power station, wind turbines on the Left Bank and solar panels. The more than 60,000 people working in the Port are encouraged to come to work by bicycle, public transportation or carpooling. The sustainability efforts made in the period 2000-2010 caused the port industry emissions to fall back 40%! You can read the full report on the Port’s sustainability program here.

[h3]The Investment Plan[/h3]

But there is room for infrastructural improvement in the Port itself too. Three years ago, the Antwerp Port Authority approved an investment plan for 1.6 billion euros until 2025, in order to maintain its leading position in Europe and the world. This investment will be twice as much annually as in previous years, as an ambitious long term plan is necessary to ensure the growth and competitive position of the port of Antwerp.

Consequently, several big projects were kick-started. One of the most prestigious is the New Port House, the new headquarters for the Antwerp Port Authority. The purpose of the Port House is to give a face to the port, symbolizing the dialogue between the people of Antwerp and their port. The project is designed by world famous British architect Zaha Hadid, and is scheduled for opening in 2015.

New Port House Antwerp - large

A view on the New Port House, opening in 2015.

Another huge development planned, is the construction of the Second lock on the Left Bank. It will be located at the end of the Deurganck dock and will provide the link to the sea between the Scheldt and the Waasland Canal. Very similar to the Berendrecht lock (500m long, 68m wide), the new lock will be deeper (17.82m) than its predecessor and will thus outrank the Berendrecht lock as largest lock of the world when it opens in 2016. Also, the new lock will improve the maritime access and will further develop efficient, multimodal and sustainable goods transport in the port of Antwerp.

Another important driver for future development is the Saeftinghe Development Area. This northern expansion area of the port on the Left Bank comprises an area of approximately 1070 ha which will be developed for maritime, industrial and logistics activities. This project is still in a research faze, but the construction of a tidal container dock is going to be one of the priorities.

Port of Antwerp Left bank

1. Construction of Second Lock on the Left Bank (largest lock in the world when finished in 2016)
2. Saeftinghe Development Area (1070 ha)

Furthermore, the 1.6 billion investment plan will fund several other ‘smaller’ projects, including the renovation of port infrastructure, maintenance tasks, modifications and new equipment (tugboats, quay cranes, dredgers, etc.).

The combination of these plans, the extra investments and the long-term vision should secure Antwerp’s place as one of the largest ports of the world, based on an impressive infrastructure, experience in abundance, and the excellent coffees in store. That is why we are confident that Antwerp’s specialized Port is – and will be – the right place for 32cup’s specialty coffee.

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Sofie Nys Sofie Nys

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