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What’s new with the 2021 FIATA World Congress?

Why did Forward Belgium bid to organize the 2021 FWC?

If I remember well, Belgium had already organized the FWC in Antwerp and Brussels, but the last time was more than 30 years ago, so we wanted to bring the FWC ‘flame’ back home. Forward Belgium (formerly known as C.E.B, Confederatie der Expediteurs van België) has always been very much involved within FIATA. Members such as Herman Doncker, Frank Boogaerts, Jean-Claude Delen, to name a few, have participated in several FIATA activities over the past years.

Recently, Jens Roemer provided outstanding contributions to the Working Group Sea within the Multimodal Transport Institute on Solas/VGM and best practices regarding demurrage and detention. We wanted to go a step further and bring our contribution to a wider and international level, hence Forward Belgium raced for the organization of the 2021 FWC.

FIATA will introduce a new programme at the 2021 FWC. What are the new features and specificities that will be unveiled at the congress?

With the world moving and evolving at high speed, the FWC has to reinvent itself to bring in change within the logistics industry. FIATA and Forward Belgium seek to elevate the FWC by introducing a more compact programme, bringing a more attractive set of panellists and speakers, and focusing at sharing more practical knowledge.

The 2021 FWC will also give logistics students and young professionals top billing as they will have an entire congress day dedicated to themselves. The younger generations are next in line to bring our industry to the next level. They are the ones who will become more involved with FIATA, with the ultimate goal to help make FIATA futureproof.

What will be different from past congress editions?

The 2021 FWC organizing team will continue to build on the long tradition of successful congresses of the past years, with the last edition back in October 2019 in Cape Town being a highlight. What will be a major difference compared to previous years is the focus on composing a substantive programme with relevant speakers from our sector. Our participants will be able to take home concrete and practical knowledge, as well as material that can be easily applicable and that will have an impact on their day-to-day work.

There is an emerging trend where most of the small- and mid-size companies are putting more emphasis on their daily operational activities. However, they have voiced that they need more guidance regarding – amongst others – CO2 reduction, digitalization and innovation to make themselves futureproof. This is definitely something that we would like to address at the 2021 FWC. In a nutshell: less high level and much more focus on the daily practice!

Next year’s congress theme is ‘the changing climate of logistics’, which can be read in many different ways. What does it mean and why have you chosen it?

Sustainable logistics are very high in the industry’s agenda, whom we have seen being increasingly held accountable for the challenges posed by environmental issues. Our sector has demanding goals surrounding sustainability that we need to address and achieve. However, it is not such an easy concept to apprehend, for small- and med-sized companies foremost. At the 2021 FWC, we, Forward Belgium, as a national association, together with FIATA, want to provide these companies with tools to guide them. Hence the need for us to take responsibility and provide tangible answers on this topic.

We can also see sustainability in the context of making supply chains more resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on logistics worldwide. It is important to know how to deal with the consequences and impact of the pandemic on the logistics chains. For example, what will happen with the demand for transportation with regards to nearshoring versus offshoring in the future? Many more questions will need to be addressed in line with this framework.

Innovation and digitalization are also of utmost importance. We feel and know that our – members – companies do need guidance on this. There are a lot of initiatives like blockchain, data exchange/sharing platforms, digital documents, etc. but companies can no longer see the forest for the trees. We need to provide the members with concrete solutions linking to these digital initiatives. The 2021 FWC in Brussels is the ideal moment to make a round-up of where our companies have experienced the biggest impacts and how we can address the relevant challenges for the future.  

COVID-19 pushed the Korean association to postpone 2020 FWC – are you worried for 2021 FWC? Have you considered alternative options to run the 2021 FWC?

We remain optimistic that the 2021 FWC will take place. Pharmaceutical companies are working hard to produce vaccines latest by the end of 2020 and there is good hope that enough vaccines will be made available before October of this year. But we need to remain vigilant and cautious of course, as we do not know how travelling will be possible in the next few months and we are certainly unaware of how the virus will evolve. We thus remain in a period of expectancy. In the meantime, we are considering offering an online/digital alternative.

When will 2021 FWC registration open?

We aim at opening registration this autumn. We also have many exciting new opportunities in terms of sponsoring and exhibiting at the 2021 FWC, and we would be very happy to discuss them in depth. To have a booth or stand of your own, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

For those who do not know Belgium nor Brussels very well, how does the country stand out logistics-wise?

Brussels is Belgium’s capital and is also the de facto capital of the European Union. Brussels is the decision-making centre for Europe. It is very well connected to the biggest consumer centres in Europe; Belgium has five seaports (Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Gent, Ostend and Brussels) and three major cargo-airports (Brussels, Liege and Ostend) to serve them. Belgium is also ranked third in the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) of the World Bank.

Belgium has one of – if not – the densest highway and railroad networks in the world. We have an ever-growing number of European distribution centres because of efficiencies and economies of scale in warehouse operations. An attractive labour market with a highly educated, multilingual and very productive workforce, strategically located in Europe, are what makes Belgium unique.

At the 2021 FWC, we will also organize a logistics exhibition. Forward Belgium together with the Port of Antwerp, Belgian Customs, Brussels Airport, Liege Airport, Port of Zeebrugge and others, will have one big Belgian logistics pavilion during the entire congress.


Because the FIATA World Congress would not happen without the participation of its members, the 2021 FWC is introducing a call for contributions:


Are there topics you would like to see covered at the FWC, specific issues you would you like to see addressed, stories you would like to listen to, speakers you would like to hear from?


Send your suggestions to [email protected] and let’s build the 2021 FWC programme together!


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