Port of Bruges, Zeebrugge, Belgium | CruiseBe
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Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge

History and museums
port, terminal port, harbor

The port of Bruges-Zeebrugge (in short: Port of Zeebrugge) is a large container, bulk cargo, new vehicles and passenger ferry terminal port in the municipality of Bruges, Flanders, Belgium, handling over 50 million tonnes of cargo annually.



In the last 21 years Zeebrugge has become a multifaceted port that handles a wide range of trades: unit loads (trailers and containers), new cars, conventional general cargo, 'high & heavy' cargoes, dry and liquid bulk cargoes and natural gas. From a purely transit port Zeebrugge has gradually evolved into a centre for European distribution.

The port has become a major European port since major development works were carried in the 1972 to 1985 period. Since then total tonnage has doubled. As of 2008, Bruges-Zeebrugge is one of the fastest growing ports between Le Havre and Hamburg. It is Europe's leading RoRo port, handling 12.5 million mt in 2010, and the world's largest port for imports and exports of new vehicles, with over 1.6 million units handled in 2010 (24.5% less than in 2008 due to the economical crises). It is also Europe's largest terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG), receiving natural gas from the Troll gas field via the 814 km long Zeepipe under the North Sea. LNG is also delivered in specialized gas tankers from various origins, like Africa, Australia or the Middle East. Zeebrugge counts as one of the most important ports in Europe for containerized cargo as well, handling over 2.5 million TEUs in 2010. In tonnage this comes down to 26.5 mt.

The port employs directly over 11,000 people and handles over 10,000 ship moorings annually. Together with the indirect employees, the port creates over 28,000 jobs.

The most important functions of the port are:

  • Intense RoRo traffic between the Continent, Great Britain, Scandinavia and Southern Europe;
  • European hub port for the automotive industry;
  • Container port with a good nautical accessibility for + 19,000 TEU ships;
  • Import of Liquefied Natural Gas and energy products;
  • Handling, storage and distribution of perishables and other agricultural products;
  • Handling of conventional general cargo and 'high & heavy' cargoes;
  • Passenger transport;
  • Organisation of the European distribution via an intricate network of hinterland connections.

The port of Bruges-Zeebrugge is managed by the Maatschappij van de Brugse Zeevaartinrichtingen N.V. (abbreviated: MBZ).

Advantages of the port

The port complex of Bruges-Zeebrugge offers several main assets, which will allow volumes to develop even further in the years to come, namely,

Historical events

  • The favourable geographical position:
    • On the coast of the North Sea, the busiest sea in the world;
    • Central in relation to other North Sea ports;
    • Within a short distance of Great Britain;
    • Close to many major, densely populated and industrialized cities;
  • Good nautical accessibility with a deep water draught in the approaches and at the berths;
  • Good road and rail connections to all countries of Continental Europe;
  • Several daily liner services to Great Britain and to other ports in northern and southern Europe, Zeebrugge being the cross-roads for traffic in all directions;
  • A network of intercontinental and intra-European container services;
  • Modern port equipment, recently established, which meets all the expectations of modern shipping and handling techniques;
  • A large potential of skilled labour achieving high productivity.
    • 1866 Mr August de Maere d'Aertrijcke, a Ghent Alderman describes the project of connecting his town with the sea in a public conference. He is known as the father of the Zeebrugge port.
    • 1894 Belgian parliament votes the law approving the construction of Port of Heyst
    • The port was inaugurated on July 23, 1907 by King Leopold II, arriving by sea.
    • On 23 April 1918, the port was the target of a famous raid, the Zeebrugge Raid, by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. This was an attempt to block access to and from the port by intentionally sinking ships to block the canal entrance, thus preventing its use by German ships and Submarines. Eight participants in the raid were awarded the Victoria Cross.
    • On 6 March 1987, the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise (owned by Townsend-Thoresen) was just outside the port when it took on water due to the bow doors remaining open, became unstable and capsized, killing 189 passengers.
    • On the 16 August 2014, 35 people of an Afghan origin, were found in a container at Tilbury Docks that had originated from The Bruges-Zeebruge port. All were suspected to be dehydrated and 1 man died from his injuries.

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