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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
26 July 2023

Case Study - Antwerp - Sustainable Urban Logistics Planning

  • Urban freight/city logistics
  • Belgium
Resource type
  • Case study
Antwerp case study image

First published on 26 July 2023. 

The 'Antwerp Case Study - Sustainable Urban Logistics Planning' by the CIVITAS FastTrack project dives into the process the city has undergone to quickly implement this innovation. The FastTrack project worked to help local and regional authorities across Europe to keep pace with innovation and quickly implement sustainable mobility innovations. The case study highlights the challenges and acceleration factors identified throughout this process that future cities can learn from.


Antwerp is a city with about 520,000 inhabitants in northern Belgium, the Flanders region. It is located 40 km north of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and 15 km south of the Dutch border. The metropolitan area has about 1.2 million inhabitants. Antwerp’s port is the second largest in Europe.

The city has elaborated and adopted a Climate Plan, an Integrated Urban Development Concept, and a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan at the regional level. Mobility planning takes place both at the municipal level and the regional level, with the city council being seen as the main decision-maker in terms of mobility issues concerning the city of Antwerp. There are several offices / teams dealing with mobility issues: The “Smart Ways to Antwerp”- team is focusing on soft measures like communication supporting behavioural change, whereas the “Modal Shift”-team’s focus is on hard measures. Other departments/offices are involved in mobility issues as well, such as operations, public domain, business & innovation and events. The city administration is continuously adapted to current challenges and the appointment of a climate protection council and ambassador are the latest examples of this.

In action 

Antwerp's Sustainable Urban Logistics Plan (SULP) is a policy document that defines ambitions and goals. There are five guiding principles which are preconditions for the preparation of the SULP:

  1. The city is taking on a growing and diversified role in the issue of sustainable urban logistics for its territory and jurisdiction.
  2. The city is committed to reaching supply and demand of logistic flows through a broad stakeholder approach and with attention to the distinction between occasional and structural flows in the city.
  3. The city is committed to stimulating a wide range of logistical solutions within a broader ecosystem by extending “network thinking” to the local Antwerp fabric.
  4. The city adopts an area-oriented approach.
  5. The city commits to 5 ways to achieve sustainable urban logistics.

The Case Study highlights how the city worked to accelerate implementation of their SULP and how the FastTrack process helped facilitate this.

The methodology for developing a SULP is very specific. However, designing the deployment plan for FastTrack has proven to be an instructive thinking exercise, where parts of it can be applied to other domains and projects. In FastTrack, both parties involved in the SULP’s design, Smart Ways to Antwerp and the mobility department worked closely together alongside the external party, Rebel.

In the context of the SULP, cooperation with other departments has taken place or is being planned. This also happens on other occasions, but working together on this project proved again that internal cooperation is very valuable and needed.

The questions provided in the deployment plan template allowed the team to critically think about the process until now and to deepen where needed. Working on this deployment plan also stimulated the team to think more in advance about certain phases or approaches.

'Acceleration Factors' identified through this process include good internally aligned coordination between teams, thinking of SULP steps well in advance, finding the right balance in cooperation with private sectors (number of events, inputs asked), and having a 'neutral' external partner to help the process.

Challenges, opportunities and transferability 

Within the scope of the FastTrack project, Antwerp chose to develop a SULP. Within the design and implementation of this, the following three major barriers were identified:

  1. The SULP needs to maintain political support during and after its development.
  2. Private stakeholder support, especially from the logistics sector, could be an issue - the SULP should take into account the economic reality and the variety of stakeholders involved.
  3. There is a scarcity in urban logistics data and this is an issue that many cities face. It takes time and creative solutions to overcome and it means that, for the case of Antwerp, the SULP will be based on available data, and as a result some analysis may not be possible. However, the data analysis should be realistic and at the same time ambitious, as they are the basis for the goals set by the SULP.
General publications26 July 2023
Antwerp Case Study