ETF Towage Committee Chair: We welcome the Port of Zeebrugge concession decision

23 Jul 2020


Following a tender procedure, the MBZ Zeebrugge Port Authority recently allocated the towage operations to Boluda Towage Europe, for a new 5-year period. This is good news and I, as the Chair of the ETF Towage Committee, welcome the decision that allows Boluda to continue its operations in Zeebrugge.

Most importantly, the decision means that all our members navigating in port towage in Zeebrugge will continue to enjoy their hard-won rights. Many have been working in the port for many years, and they disapproved of a potential relocation to another company/operator, despite some protection offered by the European rules that safeguard employment in a transfer of operations.

In reality, new bosses always bring new rules, and constant change produces additional stress. Workers at the port of Zeebrugge are no strangers to change and stress – in the past few years they had to accept several takeovers. Each of them introduced new shareholders, bringing with them new expectations, and imposing internal changes, time and time again. With the decision to keep the concession with the family-owned Boluda, workers are likely to get some well-deserved stability.

The new contract enters into force 1 January 2021 and can be extended once by three years, so until the end of 2028. Boluda has already announced some plans – newly built vessels that can withstand the harshest environmental conditions will join the fleet. We expect a very positive effect for the entire Schelde region on account of this growth and improvements.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to call on European trade unions to continue our work on the topic of towage companies of the continent. We’ve been working to end the scourging battle between them, and we cannot stop now. The companies’ disputes wreak havoc on workers’ lives, as they are always the ones that are supposed to adapt to whatever decision is made, whatever the effects. I remain convinced that there is more to be done – and as trade unions working together within the ETF Towage Committee, we can turn the tide for the better.

Enjoy a safe voyage.


Jacques Kerkhof

Chair ETF Towage Committee