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
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 email@example.com www.forwardbelgium.be 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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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.
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?
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.
Port of Antwerp-Bruges is stated
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.
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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 www.vandoosselaere.be
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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
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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
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
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.”
According to the Director-General, a new delineation of the carriers’ activities is needed: “We’re thinking of
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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