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Port of Rotterdam

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Port of Rotterdam

Port of Rotterdam
Country Netherlands
Location Rotterdam
Opened 14th century
Size of harbor 5,257 ha (12,990 acres)
Land area 5,299 ha (13,090 acres)
Size 10,556 ha (26,080 acres)
Employees 1,207 (2008)
Chief Executive Officer Hans Smits
Vessel arrivals Decrease 36,315 sea ships (2008)
Annual cargo tonnage Increase 441.5 million tonnes (2012)[1]
Annual container volume Steady 11.87 million TEU (2011)[2]
Annual revenue Increase 525 million (2008)
Net income Increase 151 million (2008)
The Waalhaven by night
Satellite photo of the Port of Rotterdam

The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, located in the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands. From 1962 until 2002 it was the world's busiest port, now overtaken by first Singapore and then Shanghai. In 2011, Rotterdam was the world's eleventh-largest container port in terms of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) handled[2] (2009: tenth; 2008: ninth, 2006: sixth). In 2012 Rotterdam was the world's sixth-largest port in terms of annual cargo tonnage.[1]

Covering 105 square kilometres (41 sq mi), the port of Rotterdam now stretches over a distance of 40 kilometres (25 mi). It consists of the city centre's historic harbor area, including Delfshaven; the Maashaven/Rijnhaven/Feijenoord complex; the harbours around Nieuw-Mathenesse; Waalhaven; Vondelingenplaat; Eemhaven; Botlek; Europoort, situated along the Calandkanaal, Nieuwe Waterweg and Scheur (the latter two being continuations of the Nieuwe Maas); and the reclaimed Maasvlakte area, which projects into the North Sea.

Rotterdam consists of five distinct port areas and three distribution parks that facilitate the needs of a hinterland with 40,000,000 consumers.


The port of Rotterdam has a long history, stretching back into the 14th-century. As the city of Rotterdam has developed from a small town into a major harbour city, the port has expanded. In earlier centuries, docks were built on the banks of the Nieuwe Maas river. In the 19th century, connections between Rotterdam and the North Sea were poor, with a large estuary/delta area with many small waterways between them. Ships had to sail around the island of Voorne-Putten to go out to sea. This could take several days or even weeks.

Nieuwe Waterweg

In the first half of the 20th century the port activities moved from the centre westward towards the North Sea. To improve the connection to the North Sea, the Nieuwe Waterweg ("New Waterway"), a large canal, was designed to connect the Rhine and Meuse rivers to the sea. The Nieuwe Waterweg was designed to be partly dug, then to further deepen the canal bed by the natural flow of the water. Ultimately however, the last part had to be dug by manual labour as well. Nevertheless, Rotterdam from then on had a direct connection between the sea and harbour areas with sufficient depth. The Nieuwe Waterweg has since been deepened several times. The Nieuwe Waterweg was ready in 1872 and all sorts of industrial activity formed on the banks of this canal.

Europoort and Maasvlakte extensions

Aerial view of the Maasvlakte area, one of the latest extensions to the port.

Over the years the port was further developed seaward by building new docks and harbour-basins. Rotterdam's harbour territory has been enlarged by the construction of the Europoort (gate to Europe) complex along the mouth of the Nieuwe Waterweg. In the 1970s the port was extended into the sea at the south side of the mouth of the Nieuwe Waterweg by completion of the Maasvlakte (Meuse-plain) which was built in the North Sea near Hoek van Holland.

In the past five years the industrialised skyline has been changed by the addition of large numbers of wind turbines taking advantage of the exposed coastal conditions. The construction of a second Maasvlakte received initial political approval in 2004, but was stopped by the Raad van State (the Dutch Council of State, which advises the government and parliament on legislation and governance) in 2005, because the plans did not take enough account of environmental issues. On 10 October 2006, however, approval was acquired to start construction in 2008, aiming for the first ship to anchor in 2013.


Container terminals showing a container being loaded onto an unmanned automated guided vehicle.

Most important for the port of Rotterdam are the petrochemical industry and general cargo transshipment handlings. The harbour functions as an important transit point for transport of bulk and other goods between the European continent and other parts of the world. From Rotterdam goods are transported by ship, river barge, train or road. Since 2000 the Betuweroute, a fast cargo railway from Rotterdam to Germany, has been under construction. The Dutch part of this railway opened in 2007. Large oil refineries are located west of the city. The river Maas and Rhine also provide excellent access to the hinterland.

24 metre draft

The EECV-quay of the port has a draft of 24 metres (78 feet),[3] making it, along with the Terminal of Ponta da Madeira in Brazil, one of only two available mooring locations for the largest bulk cargo ship in the world, the iron ore bulk carrier MS Berge Stahl when it is fully loaded.[4] The ship's draft of 23 meters (75 feet) leaves only 1 metre (3 feet) of under keel clearance, therefore it can only dock in a restricted tidal window.[5] Such ships must travel in the Eurogeul.

Robotic container operations

Much of the container loading and stacking in the port is handled by autonomous robotic cranes and computer controlled chariots. The ECT pioneered the development of terminal automation. At the Delta terminal, the chariots—or automated guided vehicles (AGV)—are unmanned and each carries one container. The chariots navigate their own way around the terminal with the help of a magnetic grid built into the terminal tarmac. Once a container is loaded onto an AGV, it is identified by infra-red "eyes" and delivered to its designated place within the terminal. This terminal is also named "the ghost terminal".

Unmanned Automated Stacking Cranes (ASC) take containers to/from the AGVs and store them in the stacking yard. The newer Euromax terminal implements an evolution of this design that eliminates the use of Straddle Carriers for the land-side operations.


The main office of the Port of Rotterdam
Raillinks and refineries in the Europoort area of the port.

The port is operated by the Port of Rotterdam Authority, originally a municipal body of the municipality of Rotterdam, but since 1 January 2004, a government corporation jointly owned by the municipality of Rotterdam and the Dutch State.[6]

Flood barriers

The port of Rotterdam and its surrounding area is susceptible to a storm surge from the North Sea. In the Delta Works flood protection plan various options have been considered for protecting Rotterdam. Finally a unique design was built, the Maeslantkering. This flood barrier consists of two huge doors that normally rest in a dry dock besides the Nieuwe Waterweg. When a flood of 3 metres (9.8 ft) above NAP (mean sea level) is predicted the gates are floated into positions, like caissons, and sunk in place. When the water level recedes enough to open the gates, they are floated back into their docks. Another barrier, the Hartelkering, is situated in the Hartelkanaal.

See also


  1. ^ a b "The world's 10 biggest ports". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  2. ^ a b Top 50 World Container Ports. World Shipping Council
  3. ^ Port of Rotterdam: Iron Ore
  4. ^ "Machine Support services on world's largest dry bulk carrier" Machine Support News
  5. ^ [1]RWS Noordzee: Tidal-window advice, Dutch]
  6. ^ "Company Profile". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 

External links

  • Port of Rotterdam
  • Rotterdam is sixth biggest port
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