Joachim Coens Chairman-Managing Director of the Bruges-Zeebrugge Port Authority succeeded Rafael Aznar CEO of the Port of Valencia as Chairman of the Institute's European Chapter in 2011. His vision is to build on the work done by previous Chairs in establishing the role of the Port Authority as central to the global supply chain. The apex of his Chairmanship saw the establishment of the CHAINPORT concept in 2013.

I am immensely proud to have have been given the privilege as Chairman of Zeebrugge Port Authority of assuming the Chairmanship of the Global Institute of Logistics in Europe. I am honoured to have been asked to play my part in the evolution of the Institute, which has set itself a very challenging work program and one which I believe, when completed, will benefit all who work in the global maritime logistics industry.

The Institute sees its role as part of the wider global family of organisations dedicated to tackling the various obstacles and barriers to world trade and also to provide our industry with a platform through which we can collaborate in shaping a global maritime logistics industry that is fit for purpose. Our industry is no longer just a service to global manufacturers and shippers, it is a component in their end product and as such is subject to the same stringent demands and expectations placed on any Tier 1 supplier. Our customers want reliability, value, transparency and quality and it is our job to deliver.

As a Port Chairman, I am very aware that the global logistics product is a combination of services provided by a large number of stakeholders working together across the world, in the final analyses our work is judged by our customers as one output. While, I did not have the pleasure of being acquainted with the late Bob Delaney the Institute’s founding Chairman, I agree with what he said “It is relationships that will carry the logistics industry into the future

This is why I want to support the Institute, I agree with its vision, that we, as the first generation of global logisticians, have the responsibility of coming together to build the tools needed to support globalization. As Chairman of the European chapter I hope to foster this spirit of collaboration further and to contribute to the ongoing dialogue and the building up of best practices.

I would like to say a special thank you to the outgoing Chairman of GIL in Europe Mr Rafael Aznar President of the Port of Valencia and his team for all of their hard work over the last couple of years.


Joachim Coens graduated as civil engineer (construction) at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and specialised at the Technical University of Delft (the Netherlands).He began his career supervising several harbour building projects for the Besix Group but since 1995 he has been first alderman for finances and public works of the city of Damme, responsible for culture and local economy. That same year he was elected as a Representative to the Flemish Parliament where he sat on several commissions. He is a reserve officer in the Belgian Navy.

He resigned from this on 15 March 2001 in order to be appointed as Chairman-Managing Director of the Bruges-Zeebrugge Port Authority. He is also the chairman of Portconnect and the Consultation Council of the Port of Brugge-Zeebrugge and a member of the boards of, among other organisations, Portinvest, Waterwegen en Zeekanaal nv, VOKA (Chamber of Commerce) and Archonaut, as well as the Flemish Port Commission, the Federal Commission for the Port Policy, Promotion Inland Navigation Flanders and the Regional Social-Economical Consultation Commission.

Mr Coens is married with two daughters, Sofie and Anna and two sons, Felix and Victor.


The port of Zeebrugge is in an ideal location to serve the markets of continental Europe as well as the British Isles. It is a young seaport with modern port equipment capable of accommodating the largest ships. The present structure of the port dates from as recently as 1985.

With the emergence of the roll-on/roll-off techniques, containerisation and the increase in the scale of the ships, the Belgian government was convinced in the seventies to develop the coastal port into a deep sea port. An extensive outer port, a new sea lock with entrance to an inner port gave the Port of Zeebrugge new impulses in the years that followed. As a result, total cargo traffic tripled from 14 million tonnes in 1985 to 45 million tonnes in 2009.

The port of Zeebrugge is also one of the fastest growing ports in the range of ports between Le Havre and Hamburg, which together handle more than a billion tonnes of cargo a year. Almost every product the consumer finds in the shops comes through these ports. Zeebrugge has become, in barely a couple of decades, one of the most important entry ports to the European market.

Zeebrugge has gradually developed itself into a versatile port, which does not just focus on European roll-on/rolloff traffic. The coastal port is also important for intercontinental (container) traffic, container feeder traffic, conventional cargo, liquefied natural gas, cruises and last but not least traffic of new cars. In this section Zeebrugge even takes pole position in the world. The unit loads, roro and container traffics, take up three quarters of the total cargo throughput.

Zeebrugge is a deep sea port and guarantees sufficient water depth in the access channel to the outer port and along the quays, because of which the continually larger container ships can be loaded and unloaded at any time. This competitive advantage means that the largest shipping companies in the world have Zeebrugge on their sailing schedule. Several world-renowned container operators have invested substantially in the port infrastructure.

In combination with a wide range of intercontinental services and good hinterland connections, Zeebrugge is especially suited for intercontinental companies to organise their European or worldwide distribution. In the meantime, quite a few companies have invested in logistic centres. From here they add value to their cargo before distributing throughout Europe. Zeebrugge has grown from a pure transit port to a logistic platform. The role of Zeebrugge as engine of the regional economy is growing. Today, 28,000 people have a job, directly or indirectly, thanks to the port.

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Joachim Coens Chairman-Managing Director of the Bruges-Zeebrugge Port Authority succeeded Rafael Aznar CEO of the Port of Valencia as Chairman of the Institute's European Chapter in 2011. His vision is to build on the work done by previous Chairs in establishing the role of the Port Authority as central to the global supply chain.

With globalisation and the evolution of shipping as vessels of bigger dimensions arrive on the scene, port authorities need to do more than just be landlords focusing on building infrastructure, providing cranes and improving market access to be more competitive, said Joachim Coens, chairman and managing director of the Port of Zeebrugge in Belgium. Speaking to media on the occasion of his appointment as Chairman of the European chapter of the Global Institute of Logistics, Coens said:


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“Ports need to have a dialogue. Not only with shipping lines and other ports but also with manufacturers, exporters and importers, stevedores, and logistics and transport companies to help them make the flow of goods more cost-effective and efficient.” “They must sit in the midst of the logistics stream of goods moving across the hinterland and going from Europe to South China and the rest of Asia and vice-versa,” he added.

Port Authorities don’t have to go it alone, Coens said. They can pool their expertise and resources with transport companies, terminal operators and stevedores and share the costs and profits for developing a more efficient service. Coens called on ports and institutions like the Global Institute of Logistics to connect with ports in China, Africa and the US and see what are the moods. “It is not the same everywhere. Some have good river connections, some rail connections. Everybody must know what’s important for them. So the ports need to change and see how they can help each other,” he said. Coens said ports needed to be actively involved in the cargo scene, talking to shipping lines, hinterland connections, customers, veterinary control authorities, Customs as well as government officials to ease trade barriers.

In this context, the Port of Zeebrugge has set up a company called PortConnect whose job is to see where the cargo is coming from and where it is getting to, and see how it can play a role in the middle. PortConnect includes APM Terminals Zeebrugge, PSA Zeebrugge, Inter Ferry Boats and Naviland Cargo. The last two provide the rail service.

“We can suggest to our customers the best way to send their goods. We have people in Europe who export but probably not in the most efficient way,” said Coens. “For example, we detected that deep freeze products went to Italy by truck one by one, customer by customer. We suggested to our customers to consolidate all those shipments at the port and put it on the train, which would be more cost-efficient. Now most of that cargo goes by rail three times a week.”

“So it is not only knowing where the market is but the best way to reach that market, which many customers are not aware of,” he added.

Traditionally, hinterland logistics has been out of the Port of Zeebrugge’s hands. It is the state-owned railways or the private inland navigation barges or the truck companies that handle this. Whenever the cargo needs to be picked up they do it and the port authorities do not play a role. That’s not their business. But that has changed because the operation is becoming so complex and with the huge volumes involved, the ports have had to get more involved.

Another initiative of PortConnect was the setting up of a regular container rail shuttle between the Port of Zeebrugge and the city of Dourges in Northern France. PortConnect found that the best way to operate in the French market all the way to Italy and Spain was the rail connection from the north of France. “So we went to the rail operators, put them together with our terminal operators and shipping lines and together we drew up a plan,” said Coens.



The Global Institute of Logistics (GIL) was established in 2003 under the Chairmanship of renowned US logistician and author Robert V. Delaney in response to the logistics industry’s call for “joined up thinking” amongst stakeholders in the global supply chain. GIL looks to resolve the challenges facing the global logistics chain of managing single transport modes, modal systems and targets which are set on stand-alone operations to create a seamless global logistics system.
A Think Tank, GIL brings together thought-leaders and thought-followers as part of a global knowledge network committed to building up the information base, best practices and standards. This, in turn, creates a platform through which knowledge is shared, best practice is adopted and trade developed. Today the Institute is a community of organizations and professionals from across the world that share a commitment to collaborating on global logistics solutions.
The Institute’s mission is to ‘Network the Global Logistics Community’

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European Chapter Chairman: Mr. Joachim Coens

Email: Ms. Anne Glas -

Tel: +32 (0) 50 54 33 15


Port of Zeebrugge,


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B-8380 Zeebrugge,



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