Japanese car shipping specialist ICO transforms the Port of Zeebrugge (Flanders) into major e-car hub

Already the world’s largest port for the shipment of light vehicles, the Port of Zeebrugge has become a key hub for e-cars as well. Thanks to a major investment by International Car Operators (ICO), this port in Flanders is now equipped to import electric cars in Europe. The expansion of the main terminal includes a new quay wall, a large-scale wind farm and the largest electric car-charging area in Europe. “In addition to growing our volumes, our focus is on creating a green terminal,” emphasizes ICO Managing Director Marc Adriansens.

ICO, a Japanese world leader in car transshipment, provides an important worldwide hub for roll-on/roll-off goods at its local site in Zeebrugge. With over 1,250 employees, ICO is a driving force for the local economy. To accommodate the import of over 3,000 e-cars every week, ICO has invested EUR 60 million in the expansion of the Port of Zeebrugge. ICO’s commitment to the sustainable growth of the local economy in Flanders has earned the company a nomination for the 2020 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy presented by Flanders Investment & Trade. Discover all the nominees and vote for your favorite!

State-of-the-art terminal

ICO’s considerable investment includes the construction of a new head office, housing 150 employees of both operational and corporate departments, and a 54-hectare expansion of the Bastenaken Terminal in Zeebrugge. “In addition, a new quay wall – constructed by the Port of Zeebrugge – will allow 16 ships to operate simultaneously. We are delighted with this expansion as it offers our customers a state-of-the-art terminal,” says Adriansens.

“As a player at the world’s largest automotive port, it is our responsibility to provide our clients with top-notch infrastructure.”

Gateway to Europe

The first batch of e-cars disembarked at the Port of Zeebrugge in early 2019. The vehicles are then transported to pick-up points in 14 countries, illustrating the importance of the terminal as a key gateway to the European mainland. By 2025, one-third of the cars passing through the port are expected to be electric. The expansion of the terminal creates some 100 additional jobs, with employees inspecting, washing and updating the cars and preparing them for delivery.

“We are delighted to offer our customers a state-of-the-art terminal.”

Largest onshore wind farm in Flanders

To charge the e-cars arriving at the port, a large number of electrical loading stations is required. In addition to the solar panels already in place, ICO is developing a new wind farm to provide the necessary power. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill wind farm, either. The terminal will be the home of the largest onshore wind farm in Flanders. In the second half of 2020, 11 turbines will produce a total capacity of 44 MW, which amounts to an annual production of 110 GWh.

The wind farm will power, among other things, more than 300 charging stations. The chargers are equipped with intelligent software and mobile communication capabilities to enable the remote control of the power flow. This battery charging area is the largest in Europe.

“The wind farm is an important step in ICO’s ambition to build a green terminal.”

Green terminal

The wind energy produced by the terminal will also be used by the local community, supporting 30,000 families, and by moored ships, allowing them to turn off their engines completely during port operations. “The on-site generation of green energy prevents the emission of an estimated 50,000 tons of CO2 per year. The wind farm is an important step in ICO’s ambition to build a green terminal. Continued growth and expansion combined with the digitalization of a green terminal is very much in line with our group strategy,” states Marc Adriansens.

With this investment, ICO upholds its status as a world-leading car handling terminal. The energy transition at the Port of Zeebrugge emphatically supports the evolution of the largest light vehicle terminal into a global e-car hub.

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Facts and figures

Parent company: Nippon Yusen Kaisha

Headquartered in: Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan

Locations in Flanders: Zeebrugge and Antwerp

Investment amount in Flanders: EUR 60 million

Annual turnover:

  • Worldwide: 14 billion euro
  • In Flanders: 160 million euro

Number of employees:

  • Worldwide: 35.000
  • In Flanders: 1,250 employees

Number of additional jobs created in Flanders: 100 jobs