World Port Conference

Thursday 10 06 2021

This year’s World Port Conference, organized by IAPH, will virtually take place from 21 to 25 June. The conference assesses the indispensable role of ports in global maritime trade and brings together key industry stakeholders for learning, information sharing, networking, and collaboration. We sat down with Patrick Verhoeven and Luc Arnouts leading up to the conference.

Patrick Verhoeven (Managing Director, IAPH): “We were looking forward to receiving 500 delegates here in Antwerp in March 2020 for the IAPH Conference, and then everyone had to cancel due to the first lockdown. Now we are just a few days away from the IAPH 2021 World Ports Conference, hosted again here in Antwerp in a different way, but with similar numbers. It’s great to have the Port of Antwerp still alongside us as host sponsor, Luc.”


Luc Arnouts (Director International Networks, Port of Antwerp): “Well, we are delighted that Port of Antwerp can still host the World Port Conference. It’s our strong belief that collectively, ports have tremendous potential to positively impact the world around them beyond trade as levers of change. They can be instigators of new zero carbon fuels such as green hydrogen. They can encourage waste reuse and regeneration of materials in new, circular economies of the future. IAPH brings together ports that cover over 60% of the global supply chains and therefore can influence in a positive way what happens on the landside. What is the main theme of the conference this year, Patrick?”


Patrick: “We have given the title “Changing of the Guard” to #IAPH2021 and the World Ports Conference. Ports can no longer afford to deal only with their land users and attract shipowners. They are finally bidding to offer long-term value to cargo owners by improving efficiency in both nautical and supply chains, and focusing on environmental sustainability through decarbonisation and electrification.

Ports needed respond to the COVID19 pandemic by innovating the way they operate, pushing forward with port community innovations in the digital sphere that were otherwise unthinkable one year ago. Paper is making way for data. #IAPH2021 offers insights on the players who are shaping the new, complex environment in which ports operate. What they think. What their plans mean for ports. The Port of Antwerp will speak on quite a few of those topics, right Luc?”


Luc: “That’s right Patrick. One of the highlights will be our CEO Jacques Vandermeiren discussing the transformation of ports into energy transition hubs with his equivalent Roger Guenther from the Port of Houston as well as with Christiana Figueres, the architect of the Paris Climate Agreement and global climate change leader. Jacques will also be in conversation with MSC CEO Soren Toft on how shipping and ports can collaborate to ensure the sector evolves to meet the needs of global trade in a digitalizing and decarbonizing landscape.

Project Coordinator Marjolein Sarens will describe how ePIcenter - a coalition of maritime, academic and technology partners - aim to apply technologies such as synchromodal planning, hyperloop and cargo visibility tools to create greener, more adaptive and efficient supply chains. For the Century of Africa stream, we have our former project director for Africa for Port of Antwerp International Nico Vertongen speaking as new team leader of WeCAPS - Western and Central African Port Security. He will be giving insights on how a coalition of the willing is engaged in securing international waters that guarantee safe passage for vessels calling at ports in the Gulf of Guinea.

We also have our Head of Sustainable Transition Claudia Mariconda, our Business Continuity Manager Niels Vanlaer, Chief Digital and Innovation Office Erwin Verstraelen, and PAI’s Managing Director Kristof Waterschoot all joining in on the main conference streams, so we are “all in” for this conference! What do you consider to be the highlights, Patrick?”


Patrick: “In addition to Soren Toft’s keynote, we are really looking forward to CMA-CGM Chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé as well as PSA International Group CEO Tan Chong Meng taking part in our Business Innovation stream, Hapag Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen leading the Century of Africa stream following his company’s recent acquisition of Nile Dutch, Robin Li as VP of China Merchants Group engaged in conversation with IHS Markit’s Peter Tirschwell on Smart Port networks, and Chief People Officer of DP World Maha AlQattan speaking about the sort of new senior profiles the industry needs to attract to ensure ports progress as the changing of the guard ensues.

Having these top executives alongside the Secretary Generals of IMO, WCO and the President of CLIA means we have been able to bring in organizations that are of prime interest to ports, rather than ports just speaking with each other. Speaking of ports, Port of Antwerp will be busy itself hosting some fellow industry colleagues, correct?”


Luc: “Indeed Patrick. During the conference we will also be bringing together the world’s most influential ports for the annual Port Authority Roundtable, which will also be virtual this year. Port Authorities Roundtable (PAR) is a by-invitation event for C-level representatives of leading port authorities. PAR was initiated and inaugurated by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore in 2015 with the aim to facilitate the exchange of ideas and learn best practices, allowing port authorities to engage in open sharing and discussion to address issues of common interests.

We will be looking at the three “D”s – Decarbonisation, Digitalization and Disruption as the main themes, which dovetail nicely with the main topics up for discussion at #IAPH2021. I’ve recently seen you filming in and around the Port House Patrick, what have you been up to?”


Patrick: “It is not because the IAPH World Ports Conference is an online event that you won't be able to enjoy the unique vibe of Antwerp. Every day of the conference I will take you on a personalised “Harbour Life” tour from the ground and the air… but I’ll let you discover that yourself!”


Luc: “I’m looking forward to that Patrick!”


Want to be part of the experience? You can register for the World Port Conference here.