Port of Amsterdam on the power of joint efforts

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First published in ABP's Report magazine – Summer 2020
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Mark Hoolwerf, Area Manager at the Port of Amsterdam, discusses the historic significance of the UK-Dutch trade partnership and the importance of maintaining strong collaboration links to help navigate challenging times.

“Now more so than ever, it is of vital importance to remain committed to the British-Dutch relationship, as jointly we can fight through these difficult times.”

The close historical relationship between Great Britain and the Netherlands is undeniable. We not only share marginal results on the football pitch by our respective national teams, but close political, economic and personal bonds as well. On these very same pages, the Netherlands Business Support Office has previously championed the close and historic ties between Great Britain and the Netherlands. These ties have always to a large degree centred around international trade, the core of the British and Dutch economies. To say that trade has been under pressure over the last years is an understatement, with Brexit and now COVID-19 wreaking havoc. However, now more so than ever, it is of vital importance to remain committed to the British-Dutch relationship, as jointly we can fight through these difficult times. The combination of the mottos of ABP and Port of Amsterdam represents in my opinion the formula to tackle these challenges, now and in future: ‘Keeping Britain Trading’ and ‘Port of Partnerships’.

“For the port of Amsterdam, Great Britain is our number one trading partner, with roughly 10% of our total annual volume (105 million tonnes in 2019) either coming from or going to British ports.”

Currently nearly all Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams meetings touch upon the hard truths of the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Volumes are down, operations have become more complex, and there is a lot of uncertainty regarding when this situation will end and what the lasting effects will be. This holds true for all parties involved, including ports, in whichever supply chain.

For the port of Amsterdam, Great Britain is our number one trading partner, with roughly 10% of our total annual volume (105 million tonnes in 2019) either coming from or going to British ports. The port of Immingham is the largest trading partner, with the port of Hull showing the biggest growth after the establishment of a direct short sea container line between our ports, which is operated by Samskip and facilitated by TMA Logistics. Cargo is moved between nearly all ABP ports and Amsterdam. We therefore have a joint interest in facing the COVID-19 virus and the impact of the Brexit. In short, we are focused on ‘Keeping Britain and Amsterdam Trading’.

At the Port of Amsterdam, we strongly believe in the power of partnerships, which provides the basis for our motto. By combining forces throughout the supply chain, including other ports, shipping lines, stevedores, freight forwarders, governmental authorities, logistical providers, etc., it becomes a lot easier to identify bottlenecks, maximise existing opportunities, and create new opportunities. Ports are international hubs where many different supply chains come together. We believe that ports are therefore uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role as international matchmakers and facilitators for trade. We have found in ABP a partner with the same mindset. Together, we have undertaken multiple initiatives to bring different parties to the table from the UK and the Amsterdam side, in order to discuss challenges, solutions and opportunities. Of course, focus lies on the short sea trade, as this presents many opportunities, but it extends to areas such as offshore developments, the circular economy and sustainability, and other trades as well. Our partnership can bring benefits in a plethora of fields, in good times and bad.

As mentioned, the current situation brings with it a lot of uncertainty. From the side of Port of Amsterdam, we do know for certain that we will continue to work with ABP to facilitate trade to the best of our abilities. We want to continue to maintain strong connections between ABP’s ports and our port in Amsterdam. This is currently difficult, but we are committed to all ports users. All interested parties should feel free to reach out to me with any questions they might have and I will do my best to answer them. I cannot promise better results for our football squads after this is all over, but I firmly believe that we can weather this unprecedented storm together. May everybody remain in sound health and have a lot of success and strength in getting through this situation.

“We believe that ports are therefore uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role as international matchmakers and facilitators for trade.”