ESPO 2018: a must for the maritime sector

What does the ‘sea port of tomorrow’ look like? And what should we do to adequately prepare for the future? These are the main questions that will be dealt with during the 2018 ESPO Conference. Rotterdam has the honour of hosting this year’s conference, which will be held on 31 May and 1 June at the Onderzeebootloods. The conference is a key event for any company that does business in or with Europe’s sea ports.

Mark Dijk, manager External Affairs, Port of Rotterdam

It forms a great opportunity to share your perspectives and insights regarding our joint future. The conference is actually more than an opportunity – you could call it a must. Because ‘anyone who’s anyone’ in the sea ports sector will be there: from politicians and maritime companies to academics and port service providers like linesmen and pilotage firms.

The theme of this year’s ESPO Conference is ‘Investing in the port of tomorrow’. We’re all aware of the challenges lying before us: the energy transition, scaling-up and digitalisation. To take on these challenges, sea ports will need to invest. In traditional infrastructure like quays, rail, roads and inland shipping; but also – and increasingly – in pipelines and digital networks. The European Commission recently presented a new proposal outlining how the EU plans to distribute the budget over the next few years. Naturally, we believe it is important to retain sufficient funding to achieve the ambitious TEN-T targets. Herald Ruijters, Director of the European Commission’s Transport DG, is one of the people who determine how all these funds are distributed. He will offer his take on this matter, as will the Commission’s Maritime director Magda Kopczynska. An ideal occasion to respond to the EC’s plans, in other words.

Other speakers whom I am looking forward to hearing are local ‘Rotterdammer’ Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, our new Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, and the former UK Minister of Transport, Lord Adonis. He will be talking about Brexit’s impact on the European infrastructure. Definitely one of the bigger challenges faced by Europe’s sea ports. Our own CEO, Allard Castelein, has some interesting stories to share during the conference opening and the final debate. And I’m personally delighted that the former Port Personality of the Year, Erik de Neef, will be speaking on behalf of the Royal Boatmen’s Association Eendracht (KRVE).

By the way, you’ll actually be able to see the linesmen in action during the conference! Because the programme offers more than just lectures – it’s quite interactive. For example, immediately after every lecture, the representatives of the various sea ports will be invited to respond. This annual meeting contributes to ESPO’s stature as a strong advocate for the sea ports’ interests in Brussels. And the event also presents good opportunities to expand your network, share experiences and review joint projects, for example. It is attended by numerous board members and other key influencers – with this time round, an extra-large contingent from the Netherlands of course.

One final reason to register for the conference: we will be rounding it off on Thursday with a dinner in the beautiful Laurens Church, which is also attended by Rotterdam’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb. I could think of no better occasion to meet other policy makers and entrepreneurs from all over Europe in a relaxed setting.

Mark Dijk, External Affairs Manager
Port of Rotterdam Authority

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