The new Tug Regulations for the port of Antwerp came into force on 1 January 2017. They were introduced for a number of reasons. First and foremost, providing a high-quality tugging service is a priority for the Port Authority, as laid down in the 2014-18 Business Plan. Furthermore the nautical challenges have become greater in operational terms over the past few years. In particular there has been a rapid increase in the size of ships.
The port of Antwerp has demonstrated that it is perfectly capable of receiving and handling the largest ships in the world. Indeed the Port Authority in partnership with the Flemish government has invested heavily in major infrastructure projects such as the Kieldrecht lock, the largest in the world. It goes without saying that the introduction of this huge lock has created new conditions for shipping traffic, and the associated services have to be adapted accordingly.
Finally, there have been legislative changes both in Flanders and at European level. For example, the Flemish Ports Decree specifies that port authorities are responsible for organising those services that they define as “public port services.” Antwerp Port Authority has declared tugging to be such a public service. The reason behind this is that the Port Authority considers tugging to be a vital service, as laid down in the Business Plan. Similarly, the new EU port regulations that are due to be introduced in future define tugging services as an economic activity and clarify the role played by port authorities in this and other service areas.
In the case of Antwerp, the new Tug Regulations define the context in which tugging services are made available. Below the locks it has been decided to introduce a system of permits. This applies both to the existing service providers and to any newcomers, who can always apply to the Port Authority for a permit. Above the locks, however, the Port Authority’s own tugging department remains the sole operator, with tugging services offered to port users on an exclusive basis.
With these new regulations the Port Authority seeks to make operation of the nautical chain even more efficient and secure, so as to provide smooth, safe and punctual shipping traffic to, from and in the port. To achieve this the new Tug Regulations also impose conditions to ensure a sufficient number of operational tugs.