Interview Jean Paul Drabbe (Port of Amsterdam)

2g@there Port & Corridor Cooperation works closely with many different public and private organisations in order to offer a wide range of service and solutions. Port of Amsterdam is one of the key cluster members and is determined to focus on South Africa. Jean Paul Drabbe, Strategic Advisor & International Business Development explains why: “It is our wish to create sustainable cooperation and create added value for both South African partners as well as for Port of Amsterdam”.

What is the key positioning of the Port of Amsterdam?
The Amsterdam port area is one of the world’s key international logistics hubs, located right at the North Sea connected with smart logistics via water (Rhine), rail, road and air (Schiphol Airport) to the rest of Europe. It ranks as Europe’s number 4 port and handles almost 93 million metric tons of cargo annually. The strategic and central location in Europe makes the port easy to reach and ensures excellent connections to all the major European markets. The Amsterdam port authority, ‘Port of Amsterdam’, is part of the local government and will be privatised in 2013. Port of Amsterdam operates, manages and develops the whole port area.

Multi-functional port
The Amsterdam port has facilities for handling, storing and transhipping all types of goods. From cocoa beans to coal, from paper to oil. Millions of tons of dry and liquid bulk, general cargo and containers are handled in the port area each year.

Not only are various goods handled, stored and transhipped in the Port of Amsterdam a quantity of the commodities is also processed in the port area. For example, a portion of the imported cocoa beans is further processed in the cocoa industry, coal is processed at the local power plant and a large amount of raw materials is processed in the building industry. The combination of port and industry is prevalent.

  • Nautical advantages
  • Unique location in Europe.
  • Tideless port
  • Short entry time from the North Sea
  • Transit time through the North Sea Canal, including the sea locks at IJmuiden, is less than two and a half hours.

Focal points

  • International logistic hub
  • Accessibility
  • Employment & added value
  • Innovative port
  • Sustainability
  • Intermodal transport
  • Strategic alliances.

What are your core objectives?
Port of Amsterdam core objectives in an international context are:

  1. Port of Amsterdam is the 4th port in Europe and is one of the most modern and professional ports in the World (World Economic Forum: The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012: Dutch Ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam ranked nr 1). We can share knowledge regarding “Smart Logistics” and “Hinterlands Development”. Therefor we would like to make new contacts and to deepen existing ones with port owners, port operators and -users, international companies with interests in Europe and/or active in energy, logistics, food & feed, minerals and cruise. Further in general with important stakeholders in ports and economic zones.
  2. In South Africa we want to share our port management expertise in port development in order to create trade relations and activities between South Africa and Europe, specifically Amsterdam.
  3. Port of Amsterdam seeks interesting business cases for both Port of Amsterdam and South African business partners. This will be the base for long-term cooperation. We aim for port developments, cruise terminal operations and strategic-  and master planning roles.

PoA is focusing specifically on the North – South route, rather than the West – East transport flow. Can you explain the strategy behind this?
The strong position in agri-bulk, minerals, biomass and commodities trade in the global market gives the Port of Amsterdam a natural port-of-entry position towards Africa. Trading, shipping lines and international routes will benefit from the multi-purpose handling, “red carpet” treatment and optimal “smart logistics” and multi modality in Amsterdam. In this respect we are naturally connected to the African continent for smooth and efficient distribution from and to Europe.

Which opportunities do you see in South(ern) Africa?
Port of Amsterdam has an international strategy for South Africa: It is the objective of the Port of Amsterdam to offer our port management expertise for port development purposes in order to create better trade relations with Europe and Amsterdam. We look for cooperation based on added value for both parties. Our deliverables in such cooperation are various: specific knowledge and services related to hinterland, multi-modal, environment, innovation, master planning, port development and port management.

Do you have specific projects in mind that receive your full attention?
Port of Amsterdam believes in room for partnerships with Transnet and Ministry of DTI. We can play a role in the high ambitions to develop the ports and corridors in South Africa. In Richards Bay, Durban, Ngqura, Cape Town and Saldanha we see the potential for both more efficiency and capacity in combination with optimal hinterland connections. As a result this will as well lead to more jobs and added value for these regions. Further Port of Amsterdam is world market leader in Cruise Terminal development and operations. This could be matched with plans in Cape Town and Durban.

To which extend is the inclusion of South Africa to the BRICS countries an advantage?
This helps in attention for these opportunities, but our choice for South Africa is based on natural trade opportunities and parallel interests to develop ports and hinterland. We believe both South African partners as well as Port of Amsterdam can benefit from stronger cooperation and mutually developed business cases.

What is your view on the regional economical development in South(ern) Africa?
I strongly believe South Africa can play the same role for the African continent as the Netherlands plays for Europe: South Africa will develop as the “Gateway to Africa”. Some important conditions must be met and Port of Amsterdam could share her experience on those subjects: smart logistics, multi-modality, sustainable development, added value services.

And which role can the 2g@there Port & Corridor Cooperation play in achieving your goals in this region?
Together with other strong Dutch organisations we can create the awareness of our capabilities towards our South African partners as well as generate action to achieve goals and create business. The Dutch government can help to create networks and relations and stimulate cooperation by supporting joint activities.