Case Study: Cruise ships in Flanders

After last week's collision of a cruise ship with a river boat in Venice, there are once again calls to ban these cruise liners from the lagoon city (source: VRT). In 2017, it was decided that the biggest ships were to follow an alternative route, but these plans are yet to be put into effect (source: Het Parool). In the Caribbean, for instance, restrictive measures have already been taken against cruise tourism (source: VRT). Can we expect similar scenarios in Flanders, or will the future take another course?

After all, sea cruises also moor in Flemish seaports on a regular basis. The port of Zeebrugge tops the list: last year alone, 142 visiting cruise ships brought approximately 400.000 tourists to the port. Moreover, the port now also functions as a departure and arrival port, and recently opened a cruise terminal as a reception area for cruise tourists. The number of incoming sea cruises is lower in Antwerpen and Gent, but these cities also receive a great number of river cruises. In the port of Oostende, the number of cruises ships is rather limited as well. In the new coalition agreement 2019-2020, the city has spoken out in favor of looking into the possibilities of a new ferry connection to England (source: coalition agreement).



Planned number of cruise ships (2019)




33 (+ 671 river cruises)

Visit Antwerp


Port of Ostend

4 (+ 282 river cruises)

North Sea Port (1), North Sea Port (2), Cruisereiziger


Until recently, nuisance complaints against cruise ships remained limited in Flanders. In Antwerp, however, a petition was organized in June opposing the air pollution caused by arriving sea cruises (source: ATV), and in Bruges, there have also been calls to guarantee the quality of life for its inhabitants. Mayor Dirk De fauw is afraid that the increasing number of day trippers in the city will turn Bruges into a "Disneyland" (source: Het Nieuwsblad). As a consequence, the number of cruises docking in the port of Zeebrugge has been limited to two instead of five, and the arrival time of ships will also be spread out more (on weekdays instead of weekends).

The evolution of the number of passengers per seaport is visualised within the theme Maritime Transport and Ports. The average density of passenger ships can also be explored within this theme, as depicted below. This layer is based on the 'Vessel Density Map 2017', made by EMODnet Human Activities. For more information on this product, please check the article that was previously published on the Coastal Portal.