||Theo Notteboom, Cesar Ducruet, Peter de Langen
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In December 2007 the Institute of Transport and Maritime Management Antwerp (ITMMA) of University of Antwerp and the Department for Regional, Port and Transport Economics of Erasmus University Rotterdam jointly organized a conference on the theme "Ports in proximity". The theme of ports in proximity is highly relevant: while most of the port users are international companies, most ports are governed by local institutions. While competition between ports is healthy and contributes to port efficiency, cooperation between ports, and especially ports in proximity, may be beneficial for port authorities and port users alike. The topic is especially relevant in the Rhine-Scheldt Delta, a region where the two largest ports of Europe (Rotterdam and Antwerp) are located, as well as other large European ports such as Ghent. Zeebrugge and Zeeland Seaports. The ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are market leaders partly because of then market-orientation and their commitment to operational excellence, good governance and a well-balanced stakeholder policy. At the same time, the ports strengthen each other through the competitive process, but also by fully benefiting from existing synergies between the two large port complexes. While competition among the ports in the Delta remains fierce, various forms of cooperation and coordination have developed over the years. For instance, cooperation between Rotterdam and Zeeland Seaports in the joint exploitation of port land, cooperation between the Flemish ports mainly in the field of marketing and cooperation between Port of Rotterdam and Port of Amsterdam in the area of Port Community Systems. While it is still unclear to what extent and how cooperation will develop, it is certain that the Rhine-Scheldt Delta will remain an important laboratory for this type of research.