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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Port Of Bruges-Zeebrugge, Belgium

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge lies on the North Sea about 16 kilometers south of Zeebrugge in northwest Belgium. The city is one of the most authentic pre-automobile cities in all of Europe. It is a charmingly compact yet cosmopolitan center with an important port for the transport of over 40 million tons of cargo a year. The past 15 years have seen the port blossom into a multi-faceted service center and an important point for distribution of goods throughout Europe. In 2007, almost 117 thousand people lived in the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge.

In the 7th Century AD, the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge was a landing place on the Zwijn estuary. Described at the “Venice of the North” due to its network of canals, the first counts of Flanders built a castle there in the 9th Century to ward off Norman invaders.
The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge had a monopoly on English wool by the 13th Century, and it was an important trade center for the Hanseatic League. In the 14th Century, it reached its historical commercial peak as the Zwijn began to silt up. The 15th Century brought decline to the trade center, but the counts of Flanders (dukes of Burgundy) maintained their powerful court there. The 16th Century brought the end of the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge’s importance to Medieval Europe.

Until the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge was opened in 1907, it was a drowsy medieval town. When the port opened, a new era of industry, trade, and tourism began. Occupied by the Germans during both World Wars, the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge was a target for the British and Allied forces.

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge economy is dependent on tourism, but a new industrial area is producing ships, electronics, yeast, and industrial glass to complement its traditional spinning, lace-making, and weaving.

Medieval reminders remain in the city, including the old Market Hall boasting a 47-bell carillon and the Town Hall. The Chapel of the Holy Blood is said to hold drops of Jesus’ blood won in the Holy Land in the 12th Century. Several Medieval churches still stand there, including the 1428 replica of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Church of Jerusalem. The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge also contains many museums boasting fine collections of Flemish art and history. The Memling Museum is located in the 12th Century Hospital of St. John.
In the late 1800s, Belgium began to construct a new port on the coast of the North Sea to include three parts: an outer port (Zeebrugge), a canal between the outer port and Bruges, and an inner port in Bruges. Construction began in 1886 and ended in 1905. For the first years, traffic at the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge was slow, with as few as 200 ships calling at port due to the lack of connections to inland transportation.

The Palace Hotel was opened to serve wealthy cruise passengers, especially Germans, in 1914. Unfortunately, Germans did arrive. World War I German forces turned the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge into a base of operations for their submarine fleet, stationing a thousand men there. In 1917, when Britain tired of the damage German submarines caused, Vice-Admiral Keyes brought a force of 1800 on 168 ships to assault the port. They sunk three cruisers filled with cement at the mouth of the harbor, disabling the powerful submarine fleet.

After World War I, the port was in ruins. By 1920, however, it was open again to ships, and trade resumed. The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge was the port of departure for Belgium’s fleet of Congo ships. By 1929, silting threatened the busy port, and the Belgian government began dredging operations. That year, the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge handled over one million tons of goods carried on more than a thousand ships.

The worldwide economic crisis of the 1930s brought a slow-down in development of the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge, complicated by strive between the City of Bruges and the Port Authority. Despite the hardships, the second half of the 1930s saw the appearance of a new molasses terminal, a fuel terminal, and a steel plant.

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge played an important role in World War II as well. Before German troops arrived this time, ships were sunk to block the harbor and the lock gates were destroyed. The Germans made repairs, though, and turned the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge into a fortified castle. As liberation approached, they largely destroyed the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge rather than have the Allies benefit from it.

It took several years to repair the damage done by the Germans, and reconstruction was not finished until 1951. However, since the 1950s, the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge has continued to flourish. In 1961, the Sinclair Petroleum Terminal was opened, and the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge was able to service the new bigger oil tankers.

Development boomed in the late 1960s as larger ships and new technologies (roll-on/roll-off and containerized cargo) appeared. In 1964, a British shipping company set up freight and passenger ferry service to Dover and Felixstowe, and the North Sea Ferries established regular service to Hull in 1972.

American corporate giant Texaco selected the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge as a port of call for its supertankers. It installed a pipeline from the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge to its Ghent refinery, and the first tanker arrived in 1968.

Container traffic arrived at the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge in 1971 at the Short Sea Container Terminal. In 1971, a new major port expansion was undertaken. By 1985, the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge had a new outer port, the Pierre Vandamme lock, two new fully-equipped large docks in the inner port, and a variety of new terminals to handle, store, and distribute cars, general cargo, bulk cargoes, and containers. In 1985, 14 million tons of cargo passed through the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge.

In 2000, over ten thousand ships carried 35.5 million tons of cargo through the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge. By 2007, that volume had increased to over 42 million tons including over 20 million tons of containerized cargo, almost 13 million tons of roll-on/roll-off cargo, almost 6 million tons of liquid bulk, and 2 million tons of dry bulk. The year 2007 also saw over 650 thousand passengers through the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge.

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge is divided into several concessions leased to stevedoring companies responsible for handling and storing goods. Containing the outer port at Zeebrugge, the inner port, and the inner port Bruges, there are also three industrial areas in the immediate area to serve cargo transshipment needs.

The outer port contains two terminals for containerized cargo, five terminals for roll-on/roll-off cargo, one terminal for bulk cargo, and one terminal for liquid bulk. The inner port contains two terminals for conventional cargo and containers, three bulk cargo terminals, two terminals for distribution, three roll-on/roll-off terminals, a terminal for conventional cargo, and a terminal for both conventional and roll-on/roll-off cargo. The inner port Bruges contains five terminals for bulk cargo, one terminal for bulk and conventional cargo, a reception facility, and a recycling facility.

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge includes 23 berths for roll-on/roll-off vessels that can handle 3500 lorries a day, more than one million a year. The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge is one of Europe’s most important ports for the transshipment of new cards, moving 2.2 million units in 2007. The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge handles over 2 million TEUs of containerized cargo each year, and two big container terminals are located in the outer port. The inner port of the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge has two terminals dedicated for the export and distribution of fresh fruit, and they contain deep-freezing areas for frozen products.

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge handles a variety of general cargo that includes fresh fruit, sugar, potatoes, flour, pulp and paper, timber and tree trunks, and mineral and chemical products. The port handles about 2 million tons of bulk cargoes and liquid bulk that includes fuels and foodstuffs. The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge also handles considerable volumes of construction materials, cereals, soya beans, animal fodder, fertilizers, and agricultural products. Over 3 million tons of natural gas is moved through the port in liquid form on tankers and in gaseous form by pipeline.

The Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge is one of Europe’s most important fishing ports. The inner port contains the European Fish Center, a large complex for moving and processing fresh fish where wholesalers can participate in electronic auctions.

As mentioned before, the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge is a busy cruise port as well, serving more than 650 thousand passengers aboard luxury cruise ships each year.

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