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Press release Doel 2020, Januari 13, 2017

Supreme Court in Belgium ends planned expansion of the Port of Antwerp

Saefhinghedock cancelled!

Last December the Council of State, Belgium's supreme court, announced to follow the requirements of the residents of Scheldt village Doel and to nullify the destination plan (in Flemish called GRUP) Demarcation Port of Antwerp (containing the plans for the Saeftinghedock). With this decision the curtain definitively falls over the Saeftinghedock. And thus the village of Doel is finally designated residential area.

The judgment of the Council of State is based on a verdict of the European Court of Justice. The European Court pointed out that the Flemish Government tried to compensate the loss of ecological values with preliminary construction of so-called new nature while they ought to protect and maintain existing nature. This includes 20 ha of mudflats and salt marches in front of Doel and 50 ha of historical grassland in the area of Putten Weiden (Pastures). Compensation is only alllowed in exceptional circumstances, for instance when there are no other alternatives available. Maintaining and improving existing nature prevails.

At the moment the nature compensations in areas outside of the Saeftinghedockzone have not been abolished yet. For those the procedure at the Council of State is still pending. But it is clear that this annulment is nothing more than a matter of time. Residents Association Doel 2020 is pleased with the verdict of the Council of State. The Saeftinghedock was supposed to become the largest dock in the world and formed an immense threat to the liveability of the region. The Committee has been fighting further harbour expansion for twenty years and was approved right by the Court time after time.

Since June 2016 the Flemish Government started to research the 'expansion container capacity Port of Antwerp' with a new procedure. For the first time the Saeftinghedock is not taken as starting point but all possible alternatives will be researched instead. Also several valid infill alternatives will be examined.. At the Port of Antwerp management they are -oddly enough- urging for implementing of the Saefinghedock. But it's obvious that also this plan will keep colliding with European natural law and won't get passed the European Court nor the Council of State.

Another problem developing together with container traffic is the mobility around Antwerp and by extension in all of Flanders. With every new quay wall, with every increase of the number of containers in the port this very port becomes more difficult to reach. This traffic problem has increased due to the move of MSC, greatest shipping company of Antwerp from the Right bank to the Left bank of the Scheldt. Because most of the containers eventually have to go to the Right bank... The traffic congestion is not only demonstrated by hour-long traffic jams, but also with silting of the secondary road network in the broader region. Out of all Flemish roads the heaviness of traffic jams in Antwerp increased the most. Queuing-time doubled within just four years. And there is still no improvement. Likewise, residents and companies in the region are reacting even more negatively. The Port of Antwerp has repeatedly anounced to put more effort on 'modal shift' (a higher transport percentage by ship and by train) but for now with any noticeable effect. Several structural knots in and around Antwerp make it impossible anyway. Most containers will continue to be transported over land.

Despite of the judgment of the Council of State the Port of Antwerp keeps on striving for the Saefthinghedock. In this respect they seek allies up into the highest circles of the Chinese party state. As if no judicial verdict whatsoever is lying on the table of the Council of State. the public support for the Port of Antwerp is also gradually decreasing. Not longer limited to distressed residents and companies, since economical analysts, academics, commentators in newspapers also made no mistake about how fed up they are with the outdated megalomanous Saeftinghedock project from the past century.