Accelerating the circular economy transition process for gateway ports: The case of the Port of Zeebrugge

Year 2023 (April)
Author(s) Fiona Maureen Courtens (VUB), Elvira Haezendonck (VUB, UA), Michaël Dooms (VUB), Alain Verbeke (VUB, University of Calgary, University of Reading)


The transition towards a circular economy (CE) has grown in importance during the last decade, and ports are now being viewed as potentially important contributors to this move towards a more sustainable economy. However, several research questions about adopting CE projects in ports remain unanswered. The importance of clustering and secondary resources for circular loops indicates the importance of proximity to either industrial clusters or urban zones. However, gateway ports (GWP), contrary to industrial ports, metropolitan (or urban) ports and diversified port hubs (which combine an industrial function with the proximity to a large urban area), do not benefit from the vicinity of these secondary resources. Nevertheless, even without access to such secondary resources, any port and port managing body (PMB) needs to prepare for the changing competitive landscape, with new cargo flows, material streams and related businesses linked to the circular economy transition of value chains. Here, GWPs, thanks to their nodal position, still have potential to function as platforms for circular transition initiatives arising in other industries. In the present study, we conceptualize a CE transition process, consisting of six steps, especially relevant to GWPs. We then explore the case of the Port of Zeebrugge (Belgium), shortly before its merger with the Port of Antwerp. We propose that GWPs should rely mainly on their potential to attract ‘new value streams’ as the main driver of their CE strategy. Here, top-down initiatives emanating from internal stakeholders, and likely even external ones, appear to provide pathways to CE success.

Keywords: circular economy, gateway port, transition process, port cluster, opportunity discovery

Cite as: Courtens, F. M., Haezendonck, E., Dooms, M., & Verbeke, A. (2023). Accelerating the circular economy transition process for gateway ports: The case of the Port of Zeebrugge. Maritime Transport Research4, [100088].



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Port clusterPort of Antwerp-BrugesPort regeneration