Located on the coast of the North Sea, its central location on the Belgian coast, short distance to Great Britain and close vicinity to densely populated industrialised cities make Zeebrugge a crossroads for traffic from all directions. An expressway to Bruges connects Zeebrugge to the European motorway system; one can also get to and from Zeebrugge by train or tram.
It is Belgium's most important fishing port and the wholesale fish market located there is one of the largest in Europe.
Aside from being a passenger terminal with ferries to the United Kingdom, the harbour serves as the central port for Europe's automotive industry, and it is important for the import, handling and storage of energy products, agriculture products and other general cargo. Zeebrugge has the largest LNG terminal complex in Europe.
The harbour was the site of the Zeebrugge Raid on 23 April 1918, when the British Royal Navy temporarily put the German inland naval base at Bruges out of action. Admiral Roger Keyes planned and led the raid that stormed the German batteries and sank three old warships at the entrance to the canal leading to the inland port. This action was a partial success as it blocked the access, but the Germans dug a new canal around the ships. The raid, although a morale boosting victory in Britain, was also claimed as a victory in Germany.
Later, Zeebrugge's harbour was the scene of disaster when in 1987 the MS Herald of Free Enterprise passenger ferry capsized killing 193 people.