Port of Oostende changes course

Depoliticisation in order to stimulate entrepreneurship

On Tuesday 12 February, the new Board of Directors of Port of Oostende was introduced. Thanks to the transformation from an autonomous municipal company into a plc under Belgian public law, the new board of directors now consists of 13 members: 6 city council members, 6 independent members and the CEO. The multidisciplinary team includes a mix of competences from the corporate world, the public sector, the academic and the legal sector.  
The six city council members to join the board were announced after the city council meeting of Monday 28 January: City Mayor Bart Tommelein (Open VLD), Alderwoman Charlotte Verkeyn (N-VA), Alan Van Laer (Open VLD), Steven Nagels (N-VA), Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) and Krista Claeys (CD&V). 

Alderwoman Charlotte Verkeyn: “In my capacity as Alderwoman for Entrepreneuring and the Port, I will advise and support the various users of Port of Oostende. Port of Oostende is committed to collaborating with other organisations. As chairwoman of Port of Oostende I will fully support the new dynamics.”

In order to bring in more expertise, six independent members were appointed: Bart Brackx, former senior manager of Jetair and the Western European department of TUI group; prof. dr. Carl Devos, political scientist and representative of Ghent University in West Flanders; Lisa Devriese, senior research assistant of policy information at Flanders Marine Institute; Hannelore Hochepied, chief commissioner of operations of the Ostend police district; Kathy Van Damme, operational manager at Vlaams Energiebedrijf (VEB) and prof. dr. Eric Van Hooydonk, attorney-at-law and lecturer in port legislation and maritime law. "The smaller board of directors is more effective and supports the new direction needed to tackle the many challenges ahead", says Alderwoman Verkeyn. 

In “Ten Focal Points of Port of Oostende”(1-10) the new policy plan is further specified.

CEO Dirk Declerck: “Port of Oostende wants to realise growth that creates sustainable employment.  To this end, a new course was laid down which, among other things, aims at diversification.  We also need to generate more income so that we can continue to invest; for example in the Blue Economy and infrastructure.” The foundation of our policy is attention to safety, health and the environment (1). Port of Oostende wants to set an example for all companies in the port area and beyond. The basic objective is to turn Port of Oostende into a structurally profitable company (2) that can turn growth into sustainable employment (3).

One of the key concepts here is continuity (4). By continuing to focus on the various market segments, more income can be generated to facilitate a proactive investment policy (5). Those market segments are: Blue Economy, Bulk & Project Cargo, Cruises & Ferry, Circular Industry and the Fishing Industry.

"Port of Oostende is a true engine for employment and prosperity. As a city we, together with the port authority, will do our utmost to give our port all the growth opportunities it deserves”, Bart Tommelein adds.  
By excelling in niche markets, Port of Oostende can differentiate itself from other ports. Clustering (6) is the ideal means to achieve this. This approach has already borne fruit in the offshore wind sector and will now also be stimulated in the Blue Economy, the Circular Economy and in scientific research.

Port of Oostende is a link that brings together many different players. The new policy will actively navigate this route by promoting companies and organisations involved in research, incubation, development and innovation (7).  
In addition to its economic role, Port of Oostende also has a responsibility towards people and society (8). In order to fulfil this responsibility, heritage and patrimony (9) will be cherished and, where possible, given an economic or social purpose again.

In order to carry out all these different activities in a structured way, a new corporate culture (10) will be developed that will clarify the day-to-day management. 
The new course also extends to REBO plc (Renewable Energy Base Oostende), the offshore terminal in the outer port. Bart Tommelein joins the board of directors and Port of Oostende delegates Dirk Declerck as CEO.
Dirk Declerck states: "I take on this additional responsibility because Port of Oostende wants to remain the hub for the offshore sector in the southern part of the North Sea.  We are working to guarantee continuity together with the other shareholders and customers.”

In 2020, the last -for the time being- wind farm, Seamade, will be built off the Ostend coast. For new construction projects, we have to wait for the granting of the new concessions and that may take some time. Bart Tommelein: "As former State Secretary for the North Sea and Flemish Minister of Energy, I hold the wind industry close to my heart. We will stimulate further developments in the offshore sector and the associated employment opportunities. Blue Growth is and will remain extremely important for our city.”

Port of Oostende currently owns 15% of the shares in REBO plc.  The remainder is held by the DEME group (30%), PMV (40%) and Artes (15%).  
The new management team will meet at least four times a year and looks forward to working with existing and future partners.