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Liège throws party to celebrate 80 years of its port

21:30 24/12/2017

It was 80 years ago that Liège opened its port on the Meuse river, and it has now become Europe’s third largest inland port after Duisburg and Paris. The anniversary was celebrated in June, with family events including cruises and tours.

Speaking at the occasion, Liège Port Authority president Willy Demeyer noted that while the port had only been in its current form for a relatively short time, just eight decades, it could trace its roots back over a millennium, to the 10th century, when Liège was handling trade with Holland, France, England and Germany.

“The Meuse brought to Liège the most precious goods: wines from Alsace and France, Oriental spices, luxury carpets, Byzantine cloths, while taking local products like stone, slate, grain, wool and fabrics,” he said.

When the Albert canal was opened in 1937, linking Liège to Antwerp, it was a strategic economic link between Flemish and Walloon iron production and Limburg’s coal mines. “Each end of this canal needed a port,” he said. “Antwerp was there. We had to create Liège!”

Emile-Louis Bertrand, managing director of Liège Port Authority, said with freight traffic in Europe predicted to rise 60% over the next two decades, there was a risk of road gridlock if nothing was done to move shipping to other modes. “We need a modal system to shift road freight traffic towards waterways or rail,” he said, appealing to public authorities to invest more in alternative transport modes.

The port is now developing the Liège Trilogiport, a 100-hectare multimodal platform along the Albert canal. Styled as a fully-fledged ‘logistical village’ for vessel loading and unloading activities, it will transfer containers to trucks, goods trains or barges heading for various destinations across Europe.

In figures

The Port of Liège stretches over 26km of quays, has 33 port areas, covers 3.7 square kilometres, accounting for some 8,900 jobs, and a further 13,250 indirect jobs.

Traffic has grown steadily over the years. It was up 40% in 2016, with 56,862 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers handled. In waterway tonnage terms, it was up 6% to 15.5 million tonnes, while the total transport volume (rail, water, road) was up 12.2% to 20.6 million tonnes.

Written by Leo Cendrowicz