Innovative industrial co-siting at the Port of Oostende, Belgium, helps ensuring optimal land-use in ports. But more importantly, it supports business development by offering an area with an overarching environmental permit and safety policy, shared infrastructure, facilities and logistics leading to optimized cost structures and opportunities for circular initiatives.

Companies belonging to renewable energy -, storage-, chemical and logistic sector involved in activities with hazardous products are inclined to meet high level safety standards and are thereby subject to permanent control and reporting mechanisms set by the national, regional and local legislators.  Dockland offers a robust and sustainable environment in the interest of all stakeholders to preserve business continuity and guarantee opportunities for accelerated entrepreneurial growth within port areas.

Fast entrance to Docklands’ clustered environment at the Port of Oostende is enabled due to the overarching environmental permit which is providing opportunities for companies aiming to easily realize new business projects. This can be opposed to a stand-alone initiative which is much more time consuming. Furthermore, Dockland offers the opportunity to gain access to port areas even with smaller area demands and thus realizing low-barrier access to a prime logistic location in port areas that would otherwise be less accessible, especially for SME’s.

Sustainable, clustering environment

Approximately 100.000 m2 land at the Port of Oostende will be the location of co-siting. The location at the Port of Oostende ensures an efficient and cost-effective use of land through smart location of operational units and shared facilities. In addition, companies can profit from the benefits of a prime logistic location connected to the main rail, water and highway networks, all organized in a sustainable way.

Due to the applied clustering master planning land use  is optimized  and leads to a substantial increase of the added value per square meters as a result of shared infrastructure and logistic areas. Making use of this shared infrastructure and utilities leads to important cost-reductions compared to a stand-alone situation, while responding to the current societal needs.

At the same time companies can focus on their core activities and take advantage of clustering opportunities to reduce their CO2 footprint. Cooperation at Dockland will stimulate networking, circular use of resources and opportunities for innovation.

The future of DOCKLAND

A specialized working group in Dockland is managing the complicated administrative task of applying for a permit to cover one site which includes a risk assessment.

However, hopes are high. The neighboring environment, schools and universities were invited to Dockland for an introduction of its facilities and its future plans. The Port of Oostende encouraged the visitors to ask any questions and the business case was well received.

Docklands’ expectation is that they will receive an approved environmental permit in 2021, and companies are already showing great interest about the possibilities and future prospects.

At the inner port of Oostende, the DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS pilot is trying to develop  a business scheme for small chemical companies, focusing on cost and energy efficiency. For small companies in chemical and gas industries (SEVESO-bound), the number of permits, security measures and safety regulations is overwhelming, hindering the business from developing in a sustainable way.

The idea

The idea behind the DOCKLAND pilot was initiated by GFS, an independent company, specialized in the storage and the handling of liquified gases,  located at the Port of Oostende. For companies with high risk products, such as gas storage, chemical components or otherwise, governments and local legislators demand  a high level of permanent control and reporting in order to guarantee the safety of the handling and the storage. Permits must be applied for and approved, in order to secure the safety of the surrounding environment, and neighboring facilities, both urban or industrial. Struggling with the enormous administrative burden of all these procedures in order to make the site operational, GFS has come up with the idea of developing the concept of co-siting within the chemical industry: by working collectively, small local businesses can save both costs and energy.

The challenge

Every time a chemical production or storage plant wants to change or to expand its operations, it must provide a new risk assessment, in order to prove that the company is not causing any risk to the direct environment. Insofar the new activity is not situated within the borders of the existing permits, this  company must apply for permits, securing that the external risks are minimized and that the surrounding environment is safe. It is the company’s responsible to assure and to attest that the procedures and the  products are not harming the environment. All these procedures are very time-consuming and very expensive due to the fact that they are hardly coordinated between the different levels of governance.

Moreover, urban planning moves closer and closer to industrial areas, and the ‘not-in-my-backyard’-syndrome, supported by political incompetence,  makes it very difficult for small businesses to keep their business operations in a sustainable way. Often procedures are suspended by court decisions, so that relevant investments need to be cancelled,  which can hurt the development of the  company. Finally, the European Commission has made the regulations much stricter which implies that procedures become even more complicated.

Therefore, the DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS  pilot aims to offer co-siting to different companies, active in the sector of fine chemicals,  giving them the opportunity to share permits and procedures, share  facilities, share energy sources and share logistic operations, thereby also saving energy. The overall management of the DOCKLAND concept will manage one major site, whereby 1 overall permit and 1 overall safety procedure, whereafter several SME’s can be clustered and connected (o.a. heath exchange). Permits will be given to the DOCKLAND operator, who takes care of the follow-up of the permit, the implementation of the different controls, the ever changing legislation and the development of the potential synergies. The companies, that sign up to DOCKLAND, will pay rent. The financial means, the human resources and the energy resources, that have been saved in this way, will be re-invested in innovation and development.  DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS will thus enhance a greener port strategy.

Development so far

One of the challenges of DOCKLAND has been to convince policy makers of the business case – making it possible to give a permit for one site, that will be shared by different companies. Actually, DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS, has the support of the Flemish ministries for economic development and for environment. A working group has been set up in order to accompany the difficult administrative processes that need to be coordinated. At the port of Oostende, GFS has started with the preparation of the procedure for the environmental permit, including a risk assessment. And at the Dutch-Belgian port of Gent, GFS has signed up for an area in the port of 13 hectares for organizing the DOCKLAND co-siting.

Meanwhile, the port of Oostende has validated the concept, and has been working on developing on a DOCKLAND OFFSHORE SUPPLY, and a DOCKLAND BREXIT.