Spotlight on...Port of Oostende - Wim Stubbe

Situated in Europe’s busiest maritime area 51°14’ N - 2° 56’ E, Port of Oostende is a versatile short sea port, accommodating all types of coastal maritime traffic. Port of Oostende is partner in several EU Projects related to renewable energy, low carbon and sustainability.

Wim, thank you so much for taking the time! You are working at Port of Oostende for the Inn2POWER project. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your company/organization and explain your responsibilities in the Inn2POWER project?

The Flemish port of Oostende is a small multifunctional seaport, situated in the Southern North Sea at the gate to the Channel area. Within the scope of their activities, the Port of Oostende is in the first place a service port. Considering the construction of the Belgian offshore wind farms, the Port of Oostende is the logistic and engineering hub for both the installation and maintenance of these wind parks. Leading companies of the offshore wind industry established their service centre at the Port of Oostende.

Furthermore, Port of Oostende is also the home-base for the Flemish Seapilots as well as for the Maritime Rescue Centre. Moreover, the Port of Oostende restructured the ferry activities heading the United Kingdom and welcomes now passenger and cruise ships.

The Port of Oostende prepares the operations of project cargo and is taking care of bulk cargo. And within the inner port, the renewable energy production, fine chemicals and circular economy are taking advantage of the multimodal infrastructure, including rail, motorway and inland waterways.  Finally, the port of Oostende has chosen to become a service port for the development of the blue growth and the blue industry:  both at sea and within the inner port, test –infrastructure is built and a close cooperation with diverse knowledge centres and the industry is established: pilot projects related to the production of seaweed and mussels within the offshore windfarms are already ongoing.

As business development manager within the port of Oostende, my role is to identify the business opportunities for the development of the blue industry and other strategic priorities. Within the sphere of the offshore industry, I am managing the Offshore Wind Ports Platform within the scope of the European federation Wind Europe, officially launched in London 2017: the major offshore wind ports are working together and exchanging in order to facilitate smoother operations at sea.

Within the Inn2Power project, the Port of Oostende has a double role: for WP 4, one of the key targets is to improve the cooperation of the ports with the SME’s to reduce the cost of the offshore operations as well to improve the quality of the logistic operations. For the other Work Packages, the role of the port of Oostende is minor: as a partner, the port considers the outcomes of the different work packages in function of their maritime and logistic practicality within a very competitive and challenging maritime environment.

 

When and how did you get started in the wind industry? What was your personal motivation to get involved when you started and what inspires/encourages you now?

The port of Oostende entered the development of the offshore wind industry some 10 years ago. After the development of an overall marine spatial plan for the Belgian North Sea, special zones have been dedicated for the installation of offshore wind parks. Considering the presence of the research support of the University of Gent at the Port of Oostende and the maritime activities in the other Flemish ports, it has been a strategic choice of the Port of Oostende as a seaport to invest in the development of the logistics and innovation, related to the offshore wind industry and the maritime blue industry. 

As to my personal motivation, the development of the offshore renewable energy is a core driver to diversify the sources of energy to guarantee a stable and balanced economic development  in the North Sea region and to step away from the traditional fossil fuel industry of the American and Arabian producers, financing their trivial and polluting activities and industries all over the planet . Considering the history of 10 years of offshore wind parks in Oostende, the development of the technologies and the industries has been impressive, and it has shown a very rich source for innovation, crossing the borders of traditional industrial sectors, that it has opened the doors for economic diversification and giving shape to new forms of industry at sea.

 

From your personal point of view, what are the most interesting aspects of the Inn2POWER project?

The most interesting aspect of the Inn2Power project is the chance to organize transnational meetings, contacts and networks between SME’s who are active in and around the offshore wind sector. The conditions for SME to work in this sector are challenging and the sector is quite capital intensive. On the other hand, these SME bring in the flexibility and the innovation that can be hardly delivered by the major companies involved. To set up these network moments is a difficult task, as these SME’s do not have the staff capacity or financial resources to investigate the market for cooperation. Nevertheless, the experience at the Port of Oostende has shown that there are possibilities and chance to define clear conditions for such cooperation. Thus, positive cooperation might be set up, this can lead to more cost reduction and smoother processes in the field of maintenance and installation. This can also be a matter of sharing competences: where one SME has a high technical competence, the other SME can be more experienced in working at sea.  The presence of consultants and national federations can sometimes hamper the access of SME to develop transnational contacts and networks, as their very specific messages are not picked up.

 

What was your favourite moment so far during the Inn2POWER project?

The best moment within the project was the B2B session during the Belgian Offshore Days in Oostende. This event was for me the confirmation that SME can get in touch with each other and to present their competences in an efficient way. When I consider the effect today of this event, I can see that new ideas have been developed in cooperation and that valuable transnational contacts have been established.

 

Wim, thank you for these insights and your work!