WEC Lines & Bilbao Port further strengthen shortsea services between Spain and Europe

Bilbao is a hub for WEC Lines, connecting Spain with Northern Europe, the United Kingdom, Morocco and the Canary Islands, with weekly maritime container services and rail connections.

Friday February 23rd, WEC Lines and the Port of Bilbao officially celebrated their shortsea shipping services together with various stakeholders at Bilbao’s OLATUA Maritime Passenger Terminal.

17 years after first opening their own office in Bilbao – soon followed by Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Vigo, and later Gijon offices -, over the last three years WEC Lines has launched various direct short sea connections from Bilbao into Europe, thanks to the support and close cooperation with Bilbao Port.

Previously known in the Spanish market as the experts for the Canary Islands and Casablanca, WEC Lines noticed that there was a growing client demand for a shortsea expert covering the UK and the NWC. Today, the shipping company connects inland Spain with the UK and North-western Europe, all via the Bilbao hub which has turned into one of its key hubs in Spain.

Despite the numerous industry changes and world challenges WEC Lines has been, and is still dealing with, such as COVID, Brexit, strikes, wars etc., the carrier has continued to expand its connections into and from Bilbao. One of the reasons is that industry bodies and governments push the green agenda while clients look for reliable and stable alternatives to taking cargo off the road that support their own sustainable goals.

In addition to shortsea, WEC Lines is continuously expanding its shortsea network by adding onward intermodal connections. For Spain, this has resulted in four dedicated block trains operating with fixed schedules between Bilbao and Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza, and Agoncillo in La Rioja.

The official inauguration that took place at OLATUA Maritime Passenger Terminal in Bilbao was attended by the President of the Port of Bilbao, Mr. Ricardo Barkala and WEC Lines’ Managing Director, Mr. Caesar Luikenaar, as well as other institutions and organizations of relevance in the Spanish and Basque International Trade, exporters and importers, logistic companies, collaborators and, of course, the commercial and management team, both from WEC Lines and Bilbao Port.

The president of the Port Authority, Ricardo Barkala, stressed the importance of Bilbao as a hub for Spain in northern Europe, its commitment to sustainability and intermodality, and the important role played by WEC Line in this regard. “We are the main port in the north of Spain in short sea shipping traffic and, at the same time, we have the highest share of rail transport among the ports in the system. Our commitment to our customers to offer them an agile, competitive, and increasingly sustainable service is firm and, to achieve this, we need the collaboration of the shipping companies that, like WEC Lines, are committed to a serious and multidisciplinary port such as ours. WEC Lines has been supporting foreign trade from Bilbao for more than twenty years, reinventing itself, growing and taking risks, and in this adventure, it has and will continue to have our support and gratitude”.

Barkala also recalled that the Port of Bilbao is carrying out the electrification of its docks, so that ships can connect to the electricity grid and switch off their engines, which will reduce CO2 emissions, noise, and vibrations. The BilbOPS initiative, which is expected to be operational in 2026, requires an investment of 78 million, of which 14.2 million will be subsidised by the European Commission under the CEF Transport 2021-2027 aid programme. “This project is associated with 20% of the energy generated being renewable, and we hope that this percentage will increase by 2025.

Managing Director WEC Lines, Caesar Luikenaar, highlighted the importance of reaching the net-zero emissions in 2050: “In 2024 and 2025 we are rolling out a fleet retrofitting plan to make our 11 owned vessels more sustainable”. This is just one of the many efforts to reach their objectives and Bilbao will remain vital to WEC Lines’ operations. “Bilbao is our gateway from Morocco, Spain and Portugal into the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe”, Luikenaar added, “We see many more growth opportunities in the Iberian Peninsula, and for Bilbao in specific.”


Photo (from left to right): Andima Ormaetxe, Director of Operations, Commercial and Logistics Bilbao Port Authority; Caesar Luikenaar, Managing Director WEC Lines; Patrick Ram, General Manager WECL Lines España; Ricard Barkala, President of the Bilbao Port Authority; Elvira Gallego, General Manager CSP Iberian Bilbao Terminal; Gloria Frau, Cruise Manager Bilbao Port Authority; Juan Ortí, Managing Director CSP Spain.