Now that Brexit is done and dusted, reflecting about the future is extremely important for the Port of Zeebrugge. But also given the many other challenges looming like so many icebergs on the horizon, it’s important for the port authority and community to map everything out carefully and plot a clear course. And that’s why we went to work at TomorrowLab together with no fewer than 50 stakeholders.


“We're more than just a maritime crossroads”, says Joachim Coens, then CEO of the Maatschappij van de Brugse Zeehaven (MBZ), the company that operates the port. “The port of Zeebrugge has expanded into an ultramodern logistics platform and a versatile, accessible port.” It owes that to its flexibility and wide-ranging package of activities, but also to its sustainable and innovative view of the future.

For example, the port has made it a custom to get together every three years with all of the port actors for substantive discussions. The result? 'Bruges, port city in Europe': a conference and networking event that in each case generates fascinating and fruitful cross-fertilisation. Coens: “For example, we’re paying attention to self-driving vehicles, the consequences of Industry 4.0 and the energy issue. And that’s not to mention the impact of the impending Brexit.”

Tomorrowlab as pilot

Clearly, the stakeholders aren’t limited to the port alone. Coens: “That's why we conceived the idea of initiating a comprehensive process of brainstorming and discussion. And who better to pilot this than TomorrowLab? The mission has already produced some excellent results. TomorrowLab made sure that we could map out and understand the challenges, but also that we know which opportunities we can embrace and what actions we have to launch.”

To initiate a comprehensive brainstorming and discussion process about our future: who better to pilot this than TomorrowLab?

TomorrowLab’s mission? To bring together all of the involved parties, facilitate co-creation and trigger enthusiasm. Digitisation, technological developments and sustainability: with those three themes as guideline, seven cooperation agreements have already been signed in the meantime, with partners such as Fluxys and the KU Leuven.

The next step? Evolving into a ´smart´ port. “Globally connected and operating in accordance with the principles of Industry 4.0”, Coens explains. “But also to become the next generation automotive roll-on/roll-off hub, in order to maintain and reinforce our top position in the world.” Furthermore, Coens also wants to take the lead in the energy transition. “Now that, together with TomorrowLab, we’ve triggered the enthusiasm of all our stakeholders about the many challenges and opportunities, we can really get down to work.”

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