Belgium Bans Export of Toxic Fuels to West Africa from Port of Antwerp

Brussels, Belgium — The Belgium government has enacted a significant environmental and public health measure by banning the export of toxic motor fuels from the Port of Antwerp to West Africa. 

Minister of Environment Zakia Khattabi announced the legislation, which prohibits the shipment of fuels that are banned domestically but were still being exported to countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon.

The new law, which received Royal assent, aims to curb the export of motor fuels with excessively high levels of sulfur and benzene — substances known for their detrimental effects on both human health and the environment. 

Specifically, the legislation targets fuels with sulfur content as high as 1,500 parts per million (ppm), vastly exceeding the European Union’s cap of 10 ppm.

“Belgium cannot turn a blind eye to the impact of these toxic exports,” Khattabi stated. “For far too long, harmful fuels have been departing from our ports, causing extremely poor air quality and health issues in West African countries. It’s time to hold ourselves to the same standards abroad as we do at home.”

This move comes in the wake of the Netherlands’ similar decision in April 2023 to halt the export of low-quality gasoline and diesel through the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 

Consequently, Antwerp became the primary European hub for these exports. The Port of Antwerp, centrally located and critical for liquid bulk cargo, is a significant European oil and chemical hub, home to around 30 companies in the sector, including two major refineries.

According to S&P Global Commodities at Sea data, West Africa imported approximately 137,000 barrels per day of gasoline from Belgium in April, marking an 18 percent increase from the previous year. 

The increased trade followed the Netherlands’ ban, shifting the burden to Belgium.

“By implementing this ban, we are ensuring that the toxic fuels we prohibit for our citizens will not end up polluting the air and harming the health of people in other parts of the world,” Khattabi added. “This is a matter of environmental justice.”

The measure, set to take effect in three months, was developed in collaboration with the Ministries of Energy and Public Health. It underscores Belgium’s commitment to extending its domestic environmental protections to its international trade practices.

Environmental advocacy groups have praised the decision. “This is a crucial step in reducing global environmental injustice,” said an official from Greenpeace Belgium. 

“Exporting such fuels not only undermines the environmental progress made within the EU but also exacerbates health and environmental crises in countries that are often least equipped to deal with them.”

Oil companies and traders operating out of Antwerp will now need to comply with the new regulations or face significant penalties. 

The legislation aims to close the loophole that allowed the export of fuels that are too toxic for European standards to other countries, perpetuating environmental harm abroad.

As Belgium takes this decisive step, it sets a precedent for other European countries to follow suit. The ban highlights the importance of global environmental responsibility and the need for stringent controls on the export of hazardous materials.

In summary, Belgium’s ban on the export of toxic fuels from the Port of Antwerp is a landmark decision in global environmental governance, emphasizing the necessity of equitable environmental protections and the health of all communities, regardless of geographic location.

 

This article was created using automation and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our staff editorial members

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