Port of Antwerp-Bruges hit with €41.3m fine in DP World dispute


This case highlights the delicate balance between governmental authority and the rights of private investors in the development of critical infrastructure.

Port of Antwerp-Bruges Grapples with €41.3m Fine in DP World Dispute
Port of Antwerp

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges is facing a significant financial blow after an arbitration ruling mandated a hefty compensation of €41.3 million to global port operator DP World. This ruling, emerging from a protracted concession dispute that spans nearly two decades, spotlights the intricate dynamics of international port operations and the imperative of adhering to concession agreements.

The dispute traces back to 2014 when the Port of Antwerp-Bruges made a controversial move by repossessing a 40-hectare area of DP World’s concession at Deurganck dock. Subsequently, this area was awarded to another port operator, PSA, in a decision defended as being in the public interest.

This action triggered a legal battle as DP World contested the repossession, leading to an arbitration process under the auspices of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

Importance of concession agreements

The tribunal’s ruling, delivered on February 15, 2024, represents a decisive victory for DP World and underscores the critical importance of concession agreements and the legal protections they afford to international investors. It sets a precedent for how similar disputes within the port and maritime industry might be adjudicated in the future.

The financial implications of the ruling are substantial. The initial compensation of €41.3 million could escalate further once additional costs and interest are factored in, posing a considerable burden for the state-run port.

This comes against the backdrop of previous financial adjustments made by the port following the global financial crisis and scrutiny from the European Union regarding competitiveness concerns.

In response to the ruling, the Port Authority has expressed intentions to review the decision while emphasizing the importance of legal certainty for all stakeholders involved in port operations.

This case highlights the delicate balance between governmental authority and the rights of private investors in the development and operation of critical infrastructure.

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