Preparing the City Port for the advent of megaships: How Rotterdam tackles the challenges?

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MAL_picture_isabelle_vries_105-135Since many decades, Rotterdam has been preparing the port for receiving large vessels. At the end of the 19th century, the port made the leap to the south bank of the river, leaving the city behind. From this point it digged itself more than 40 kilometres to the North Sea. Pièce de résistance was the construction of the Waalhaven, which is still one of the biggest artificial harbour basins in the world. Exactly 50 years ago, the very first container vessel of Sealand moored in Rotterdam. And in the 90s, European Combined Terminals developed the Delta terminal, one of the first terminals in the world with automated guided vehicles. The latest development is Maasvlakte 2, 2000 hectares of new port area reclaimed from the sea. Maasvlakte 2 provides ultra large ships (> 20.000 TEU) with an entrance of 25 meters in depth. The two latest terminals of APMT and Rotterdam World Gateway are state of the art, and fully automated. The Port of Rotterdam considers ultra large vessels not as an economic problem; cost and benefits are past on in the chain. Practical and planning challenges resulting from large vessels can be dealt with in cooperation between partners in the transport chain:

  • Digitalisation of planning (sea side, quay side, hinterland).
  • Organisation of synchro modal transport.
  • Improvement of hinterland connections and development of inland terminals.
  • Improvement of CO2 footprint.

Pressure on cost reduction, efficiency and safety will lead to further atomisation (think of mooring and lashing). For port cities, loss of jobs in the port seems to be inevitable. Hence, the port city community should create opportunities for new businesses (ICT, maritime services, manufacturing, and maintenance) and should work on labour planning and education for new skills.

Isabelle M.J. Vries works at the Port of Rotterdam Authority. Today she is senior advisor Corporate Strategy and program manager of the Port Vision 2030. Until 2015 she was associate professor of applied science at the Rotterdam University of Applied Science. She published frequently on port planning and port city relationship. Last year she published several articles in the book “Port of Rotterdam, from City to Sea” (NAi010 publishers). She also contributed to the edition of Oceanides on Governance of Port City relationship.
Further headlines of her professional career: Manager division Environment and Spatial Planning at Public Works of Rotterdam. Project manager Port Plan 2020 and area developer City Ports Project (reconstruction port city interface). She has two Master degrees: City Development at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University.

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