No doubt about it: Belgium is very much a seafaring country. Belgium also boasts a maritime tradition spanning over two centuries. It is bound to be, as it lies on the shores of the North Sea and the English Channel, the world’s most densely-sailed sea route. Moreover the Belgian ports are the economic gateway to the entire European Union. The Belgian navy defends these vital interests, informs the merchant shipping about the securitiy situation at sea and escorts them where needed.
The EU takes back control over its shipping
At the end of last century, the European Union faced the prospect of losing control over its shipping industry. This led to the development of a new maritime policy, allowing EU Member States to encourage the management of their ocean-going vessels under European flags through a reduction in the tax and social security burden. Belgium immediately followed suit.
The advantages of the current maritime policy
The EU measures about the State Aid Guidelines, have borne fruit, as the current shipping policy yields a great number of advantages.
- Operating vessels under the Belgian flag is competitive on the world market.
- The shipping industry has been anchored again durably in Belgium. In 2013 shipping yielded € 2,830 million of added value, with a workforce of 14,500.
- Nautical and engineering training has received a fresh impulse. Currently 700 students – an impressive total – are enrolled at the nautical academy. Thus maritime knowledge has been preserved for the Belgian economy.
- The Belgian shipowners operate very substantial fleets.
Counting on the navy
More Belgian flag vessels means more responsibility to continue guaranteeing maritime security, both in peacetime and in armed conflicts. The Navy remains an essential pillar in a strong foreign policy. More than ever it is important to continue to invest in the Belgian navy to cope with the growing instability along the trade routes, the continuing threat of terrorism, piracy and strategic tensions.