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Issue no. 16 June 2022

Belgian Freight Forwarding Association

Legal toolkit for forwarders Urgent review of the Block Exemption

Two cities, one port:

a look at the merger of the Port of Antwerp with the Port of Bruges INTERVIEW | YOUNG FORWARD | KNOWLEDGE & TRAINING | TRENDS & INNOVATIONS | NEWS

Olivier Schoenmaeckers


Emerging from the crisis For the last three years, our diaries have been mainly determined by a series of crises: Brexit, Covid and the conflict in Ukraine. Each crisis situation demands a different approach, but it always requires gearing up to ensure the sector is adequately informed and providing support in these unprecedented circumstances. These events have a huge impact on the logistics chain and we have to deal with the consequences on a daily basis. Frequent contacts with all the relevant local, national and European authorities, daily enquiries from companies about the practical impact, discussions about costs and responsibilities… we’ve become very proficient at all of this. But a number of ongoing structural cases have disappeared under the piles of paperwork within various governments. And while we understand that people and resources need to be deployed to manage a crisis, we’re also keen to look towards the future in our sector. FORWARD Belgium has therefore drawn up a to-do list for the Customs Administration, FPS Mobility, FPS Justice… although we sometimes wonder whether it’s worth adding to it since we haven’t received any answer or co-operation. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to work constructively over the coming months and focus properly on making positive progress for the sector.

Colophon Brouwersvliet 33 / Box 1, 2000 Antwerp

It’s high time that Certified Pick Up (CPU) is realised and work can be done on the digital list of priorities which was drawn up by the private community as part of The Way Forward. Admittedly, this is a complex exercise that requires many factors to be considered, but frustrations are increasing because companies are currently having to pay for an application that is not yet operational.

(Belgium) T +32 3 233 67 86 Published by: Olivier Schoenmaeckers Administration: Ines De Bruyn Marketing:

We’re very interested to find out what the merger of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge will bring; we currently have no idea what the impact on our community will be. We certainly have a good relationship with our colleagues in Zeebrugge, and we’re working together to determine how we can combine forces within FORWARD with mutual respect. We’re pleased to see that businesses are continuing their sustainability efforts, despite the large amount of work required and the challenge of finding sufficient suitable personnel, and we’re delighted to welcome some new members to our club of FORWARD Goals for Sustainable Development.

Vanessa Thys Change of address: Ines De Bruyn, Editors: Nicole Verstrepen, Olivier Schoenmaeckers Pre-press: Ingrid Renders

Let us hope that those working in customs administration are able to switch from crisis management back to constructive discussions with the sector. A number of important first steps have already been taken in reforming the sanctioning policy, and we mustn’t lose any momentum during this legislature. The crisis has caused us to change our traditional festive or Christmas event into a summer occasion. And all our forwarding colleagues’ positive vibes and enthusiasm at the magnificent Handelsbeurs show great promise for a hot summer! Emerging from the crisis.

Concept & creation: KMOdynamoo


Olivier Schoenmaeckers


Two cities, one port:

a look at the merger of the Port of Antwerp with the Port of Bruges Ports are undoubtedly one of the most important engines in our economy, and the beating heart of our imports and exports. That’s why, following lengthy negotiations, the ports of Antwerp and Bruges have resolved to join forces and share their docks. This will strengthen both Belgian ports’ position and highlight Belgium’s key role as a logistics hub that freight forwarders can benefit from. Shippers & Forwarders Manager Philippe Beaujean takes a look behind the scenes of the much-discussed merger and explains some of the advantages offered by the port of tomorrow. to improve their products for customers thanks to the What is your role for the Port of Antwerp-Bruges?

enhanced possibilities we offer, so it’s a win-win situation

“As Shippers & Forwarders Manager, I’m their central point

for everyone involved.”

of contact. My department is responsible for both the reactive and proactive contact with all the port’s indirect

Why have you had to wait so long to reach an agreement?

customers. We answer all their questions, address their

“This is largely because of the competition authorities. We

concerns and incorporate everything in our policy.”

weren’t able to sit down together commercially for a very

“It used to be much harder for our indirect customers to find

long time, which is why we’re now taking the time to makes

the right answers and people in the port. But we’re a vital

sure our commercial strategy is properly implemented.”

link in the supply chain, so they need to be able to come to

“We’ve already taken our first steps, and are busy working on

us with their queries.”

this merger’s unique selling proposition (USP) for forwarders to communicate. The crisis has shown us, once again, that

What does the merger between Antwerp and Bruges

we need this more and more.”

mean in concrete terms? “First and foremost, it’s a single port with two platforms that

Why are freight forwarders so important?

will bring people together and ensure climate and economic

“Forwarders are like architects who ensure freight is

issues are given a stronger voice worldwide. As the second

transported efficiently. Supply chains are becoming more

largest port in Europe, we’re also a powerful driver for the

and more complex, and political crises – such as the conflict

Flemish and European economy, which in turn will attract

in Ukraine and Brexit – increasingly make timely deliveries

more potential investments. In short, more people will listen

difficult. Specialist forwarders take care of customers and

to us and hear what we have to say!”

help to ensure that shops in the United Kingdom remain

“Shipping companies and forwarders will also be able

properly stocked, for example.”


Interview How do you see these two ports complementing each

be an important asset for shippers and forwarders moving

other? Are they strong enough?

forward, because sustainability is playing an increasingly

“Absolutely! This complementarity is even reaping rewards

major role in the supply chain.”

already. In Zeebrugge, the focus is on shortsea and it’s a real energy port (for gas). In Antwerp, we’re strong in break bulk,

And what about any digitalisation initiatives?

dry bulk and liquid bulk.”

“Yes, we have a lot of these too. Take the CPU project, for

“And we’re highly committed to interconnectivity in the

example, with which we’re aiming to organise how import

areas where we overlap, such as containers and ro-ro

containers are picked up differently. We also have projects in

ships. One of our internal working groups is detailing

place to help advance the digitisation of data exchange, and

how we can combine these two platforms as efficiently

are collaborating with partners to create stronger systems.”

as possible.” How are you dealing with the use of space in the port? Does this merger also add value in terms of energy?

“In parallel with the Extra Container Capacity Antwerp

“The energy transition is a very important issue for the Port

project, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is working on a

of Antwerp-Bruges, and a significant motive behind this

‘Container Plan 22-30’ to safeguard our competitive

merger. We firmly believe that the Port of Antwerp-Bruges

position. The continuous growth of the container business in

can be an important energy hub which will help to shape

Antwerp is resulting in increased demand for capacity. We’re

changes in energy.”

continuing to focus on implementing further optimisations

“As for the sources of energy for the ships themselves,

and improving efficiency.”

we’re focusing on a multi-fuel approach to strengthen our

“Working on all levels together with other countries means

position as a bunkering port. We’re also showing the market

we can already offer concrete and effective solutions for this.

that alternative fuels work, for example with a hydrogen-

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges will act as a catalyst for initiating

powered tugboat as well as a hybrid vessel.”

dialogues with various parties to encourage even more improvements in efficiency.”

You say that you’re bringing people, the climate and the economy together. What does this actually mean?

Finally, can you sum up the core values of this merger

“As a port, we’re committed to a green future to maintain a

for us?

base for expansion and investments, which all stakeholders

“We strongly believe that the merging of the two ports will

in the wider national and international market can benefit

have a positive impact on our global positioning and make

from. That’s why we’re engaging in the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’

us stronger in relation to our competitors. Together with the

package, for example.”

forwarders, shippers and all other stakeholders, we can find new opportunities even faster and more efficiently in every

“Becoming more environment-friendly will furthermore


aspect. And this will ensure we can continue to grow!” ■

The recently announced Port of

in a port other than the destination

necessarily need to be accepted.



port, through the application of



general conditions – whether or not


consequences there might be if the

this is still opposable – under certain

foreseeable for some time can

bill of lading states ‘Port of Antwerp-


hardly be considered a form of

Bruges’ as the port of discharge.

The maritime carrier then takes the

force majeure entitling the carrier to

view that delivery at the alternative

escape their obligations.



merger of










Legal or geographical concept?

port of discharge constitutes the end

First and foremost, the destination

not something the consignee wants

B/L Port of Antwerp–Bruges wanted?

port stated on the B/L remains an

to hear, and maritime carriers are

Firstly, it’s a matter of waiting to see

agreement between the maritime

often held accountable for all the

how the various shipping companies

carrier and the consignor.


react, and it’s always important

of the sea voyage. Naturally, this is

to remember to check the B/L

The ‘destination port’ term is a geographical or territorial concept

Diversion due to congestion?

conditions carefully.

by definition. In principle, there is no


It’s advisable for the cargo interests

connotation with the legal entity that

ports currently leads to shipping


operates the destination or other ports.


themselves well in advance (before

In other words, the fact that the

the port of loading/unloading and


ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp

declaring ‘end of voyage’.

agreement) about who should bear

will fall under one and the same port

And these situations usually generate

the costs and responsibilities if the

authority is irrelevant.

extra costs.

Port of Antwerp-Bruges is stated













various changing


to sea

inform transport


as the destination port. This can


agreed terms and conditions cannot

then serve as the basis for reaching

carrier is supposed to call at their

mean that the cargo owner is


destination port, they are permitted,

responsible for the resultant costs.

shipping company.

under certain circumstances, to call

The carrier is obliged to deliver


at an alternative port – if there is one

the goods at the port or place of

discussions around the costs and

nearby – with the obligation that they

destination as stated on the B/L, and


ensure the goods are delivered to the

to do so under their own responsibility

the goods if the maritime carrier

contractual destination at their own

and at their own expense.

unilaterally unloads them at a port of

risk and expense.


What constitutes a ‘nearby port’ is

clauses in the B/L always need to be

In addition to the legal issues,

not defined in the legal doctrine, but

considered. These usually include

careful consideration of course also

nearby is presumed to be nearby.

provisions for situations where the

needs to be given to who is best







agreements for






their choice.


shipping company reserves the right

placed to ensure the transfer of the

against the background of the liberty

to deviate from the original route

goods between the two ports and

clauses that often appear in bills of

or to discharge at other ports.

therefore retains ‘control’ of the

lading, whereby a maritime carrier

But this doesn’t mean that these

cargo. ■

reserves the right to unload goods

provisions are always valid and





Trends & innovations

Bill of Lading: Port of Antwerp-Bruges?


FORWARD Goals for sustainable development These members may now use the FORWARD Belgium sustainability logo. They have demonstrated their commitment to various SDGs and sustainability.

FIATA World Congress 2023 Brussels


Preparations for the 2023 World Congress of Freight

- Energy- and CO2-neutral warehouse

Forwarders & Logistics Service Providers in Brussels

- LED lighting

have restarted.

- Well-being at work: fruit baskets, pool table, dartboard

FORWARD Belgium brought the World Congress to

and plants in the workplace - Training and learning paths for employees

Belgium in 2021 but it was postponed for two years due to Covid.

- Electrification of the vehicle fleet - Offsetting CO2 emissions

The FIATA World Congress is one of the most important

- Multimodal transport

events for the logistics sector and is therefore a unique

- Coordinated waste management

opportunity to put the Belgian logistics sector in


the spotlight.

- Bicycle leasing plan

In addition to the conference that will take place in Square

- Structural teleworking policy and teleworking facilities

Convention Centre, there will also be a trade fair with many

for employees

company exhibitions.

- Contributing to biodiversity by installing beehives

You will have the opportunity to meet logistics companies

- LED lighting

from all over the world at various networking events in Brussels City Hall, Autoworld and the Comic Strip Museum. We’re happy to offer you a variety of options to showcase your company at this unique event. Please contact the FORWARD Belgium secretariat.


Van Doosselaere Advocaten focuses on companies with a specific specialization in the legal branches of transport, logistics, customs and excise duties, insurance and company law.

Knowledge & training

Justitiestraat 26 2018 Antwerp Tel: 0032/ (0)3/203.40.00 Fax: 0032/ (0)3/225.28.81

Our team of lawyer experts is available for your services. Guy Van Doosselaere ( Adry Poelmans ( Jan Daneels ( Geert Preckler ( Christophe Van Mechelen (

Legal toolkit for freight forwarders

A must for every logistics service provider There is an increasing trend towards compliance in our sector. As a freight forwarder or logistics service

- The relationship with the maritime carrier, terminal, transporter… with practical examples and tips

provider, you have to deal with complex issues on

- Insurance recommendations

a daily basis, such as the use of logistics agreements and

- Use of House B/L

general terms and conditions, and settling claims and

- Attention to customs responsibility

other legal disputes.

- E-commerce and the logistics service provider - …

A logistics service provider’s liability demands that they need a certain level of knowledge and support.

This training will provide you with practical tools to better understand your responsibilities and rights as a freight

FORWARD Belgium has written a course for Portilog on

forwarder or logistics service provider.

freight forwarders’ legal position. The topics covered include:

The course is also part of the Portilog Port Professional

- The legal capacity of the freight forwarder

programme. ■

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Trends & innovations

Nicolette van der Jagt, Clecat Director General

“We’re demanding an urgent review of the Block Exemption” Clecat,






Shanghai again and demand for capacity is declining. She

Transport Logistics and Customs Services, is asking

is concerned about the new development that has been

the European Commission to investigate the unfair

ongoing for a few months now, where the largest carriers

and discriminatory behaviour of shipping companies

are increasingly focusing on a door-to-door supply chain.

and their alliances. According to the interest group,

“The big shipping companies have wanted this for

their behaviour breaches Articles 101 and 102 of the

a long time, but they seem to have continued improving

European Union Treaty. Clecat also believes that the

at becoming integrated carriers since the pandemic.

Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (CBER) is in need

They’ve made huge profits over recent years, and have

of a thorough overhaul.

reinvested this money in their supply chain by taking over all kinds of logistics stakeholders.”

We don’t have to tell you about the current massive

“The carriers are putting pressure on shippers to deal

disruption to operations in our sector. The logistics chain

directly with them, and we’re also seeing some carriers

is having to contend with congestion, sharply rising

refusing direct contracts to the forwarders, especially

demand, freight rates going through the roof, container

the SMEs, from one moment to the next. We also hear

shortages and shipping companies’ services that could

of cases where a freight forwarder who just wants to

often be much better.

reserve a container is refused unless they also buy other

According to van der Jagt, the cause of this disruption

services from the carrier. But these are unfair practices.

needs to be sought in the concentration and manner in

The service also leaves much to be desired. For example,

which alliances operate, but the coronavirus pandemic

forwarders are rarely informed, if at all, about when

was the trigger. On top of that came the Suez Canal

a container is available for pick-up in the port. In a healthy

blockage. The difficulties started in February 2020 when a

market, where rules for fair trade apply, some issues need

large part of the supply chain in China came to a standstill.

to be reviewed: it can’t be the case in a competitive

We saw a large increase in blank sailings where ships were

market that the service deteriorates so badly while prices

taken out of service. There was a shortage of containers

skyrocket. The consortia block exemption allows carriers

and ships, and tariffs skyrocketed.”

to manage capacity, but what we see is a manipulation

The influence of the sanitary crisis also created

of the market. That’s why it’s high time this exception

a consumption boom, which reached massive proportions,

to normal competitive rules was revised because some

especially in the United States. Far East - US freight

boundaries are currently defined very vaguely, such as

proved more profitable for the carriers than sailing from

access to data.”

the Far East to Europe. So quite a lot of the capacity went

The Director General also said that forwarders’ customers

to the US trade, which caused major shortages in Europe.

are currently being approached directly by carriers with an

According to the carriers, these were due to factors

offer just below the prevailing prices: “Add developments

such as port congestion, increased demand, sick port

such as vertical integration and consolidation, with ships

workers, etc.

getting bigger and bigger, to that… and we cannot call these trends healthy. Carriers are also taking advantage

Door-to-door supply chain

of certain schemes where they a maximum of 2% tax on

Van der Jagt acknowledges that carriers have ordered

their huge profits, including for their hinterland logistics

new ships in the meantime, but the problem seems to be

services, while their logistics competitors are paying the

becoming cyclical because there are more lockdowns in

normal tax…”


way around. Moreover, carriers have an interest in port

The same problem exists in the United States, but the US

congestion because they create a scarcity of capacity that

Congress is taking action there. Van der Jagt: “The Biden

can keep freight rates high. This contradicts the myth that

Administration has shown itself to be committed to US

schedules collapsed because of port congestion. We’ve

importers and exporters, given the enormous damage

also seen that alliances have been able to shift capacity

they have suffered due to high container prices and lack

to the most profitable trade lanes. According to the

of capacity. Various government investigations into unfair

block exemption for consortia, shipping companies are

shipping line practices are already underway and various

entitled to organise joint services on a trade provided they

lawsuits have been filed. Congress is also working on

don’t engage in price-fixing and their combined market

reforming the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.”

share does not exceed 30%, but we see no difference in

As in Europe, shipowners there enjoy a degree of

behaviour between carriers operating above or below this

antitrust immunity, which allows carriers to manage their

market share. The regulation is completely out of date due

capacity within the alliances. The US Congress is aiming

to major changes in the market, alliances, digitalisation,

to put a stop to this by amending the Ocean Shipping

consolidation and increases in scale.”

Reform Act.

According to the Director-General, a new delineation of the carriers’ activities is needed: “We’re thinking of

Clecat’s efforts

introducing a ‘permission to operate’, a new way for

For its part, Clecat raised this issue with the European

carriers to work together, and are currently working out

Commission and asks that it follow the example of the

the exact definition.”

United States. “We’ve been in talks with the Commission since 2020.

Forwarder added value

Specifically, we’re calling for an urgent investigation into

Clecat believes that forwarders will certainly continue to

the application of European competition rules in container

play an important role in the logistics chain: “They may

transport and an early and thorough review of the Consortia

have to innovate and digitise their processes to a large

Block Exemption Regulation. This regulation is vaguely

extent, but they provide solutions when things threaten to

drafted and allows shipowners to engage in capacity

go wrong or have to change at the last minute. If a container

management in practice. Data from the International

is parked somewhere it shouldn’t be, if an airport suddenly

Transport Forum and elsewhere shows that carriers delayed

closes… these problems require the service and creative

the return of capacity to the market in the third quarter of

solutions provided by the freight forwarders. A forwarder

2020, which had a huge impact on rates. Port congestion is

thinks very differently to a shipping line. They will always

a product of fluctuating schedule reliability, not the other

propose a customer-oriented solution.” ▪


Trends & innovations

US Congress protects trade


5th FORWARD Cup – afterwork edition On Friday 6 May 2022, Young FORWARD Belgium organised the 5th edition of the FORWARD Cup – with over 200 athletes and lots of supporters in attendance. MSC Belgium ultimately won the FORWARD cup after an exciting competition at SV Groenendaal in Merksem. ▪

Young Antwerp Anchorage ‘Navigating to the future’ On Thursday 12 May 2022, Young FORWARD Belgium, Alfaport Voka, YoungShip Belgium and ASVTNG organised a successful young people’s congress in the KAVA Congress Centre. ▪


Together we make international trade run faster.



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