09-Oct-2002 -- After having discharged a part of our citrus fruits from Argentina and
Uruguay at Antwerp (Belgium), we continued for the short voyage to the next
discharging port: Rotterdam.
At the entrance of the Nieuwe Waterweg (New Waterway), the so-called
Maasmond (Mouth of River Maas), there is 52N4E.
At 4 a.m., about 2 nautical miles (3,7 km) off the Maasmond we took the
pilot who had to bring us to our assigned dock. Due to outbound traffic we
were forced to keep our ship a little bit South of the confluence, and so this visit is an attempt only.
The city of Rotterdam is officially in existence since 1328, when
count Willem III. granted "city rights" for the town that had been growing
around a dam in the river Rotte. (Hence the name: Rotte-dam.)
It slowly grew, but on the whole it remained a town of very little
significance, especially when compared to its main competitors Delft and
Dordrecht, which were much more important in trade and industry in those
But Dordrecht suffered severe damage from the St. Elisabeth-flood of
1421, while Delft failed to excavate the larger harbor it needed to support
the trade, mostly as a result of internal political machinations.
Rotterdam had no such problems: its position near to deep water was much
better than that of its competitors, and it had a readily accessible harbor.
Trade flourished, and many goods started to pass through Rotterdam on their
way to and from the ships that frequented her harbor.
In 1488, the bands of Frans van Breederoode did severe damage to the city,
looting and burning large parts of Rotterdam. Fortifications were built, and
he city became slightly smaller in order to become more defendable.
In the 1570s, during the war with Spain, Rotterdam managed to fortify its
position as a port of trade, when it became one of the few ports open to the
sea. Antwerp and Amsterdam were being blocked due of the war.
The city expanded, the walls around it were torn down as
soon as the dangers of war diminuished, and new harbors were excavated,
especially during the 17th century.
Rotterdam embraced the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Steam
power and mechanization boosted the capacity of the port enormously.
The Nieuwe Waterweg ("New Waterway") was completed in 1872, which gave
Rotterdam a direct, high-capacity connection to the North Sea. This process
continued well into the 20th century.
On 10 May 1940, the Wehrmacht (German Army) attacked the Netherlands.
Part of the German "Blitzkrieg" strategy was an extensive bombardment on the
heart of Rotterdam, the "Hofplein", on 14 May 1940. Blockbusters and
firebombs laid the heard of
the city to waste. The Dutch government was forced to capitulate after only
five days of war in order to prevent further bloodshed.
Five years of German occupation followed, and of all
Dutch cities none suffered as greatly as Rotterdam did.
The heart of the city was gone completely.
After the German capitulation in 1945, the process of rebuilding the city
began. Disastrous as the 1940 bombardment has been, it did provide
architects with a truly unique opportunity: the chance to reconstruct the
heart of a large city from scratch. And that is exactly what they did.
Compare Hofplein, with the 1940 picture after the
bombardment and with this of today!
After the flood in 1953 a large project was initiated to prevent such
floodings in the future. This project, the so-called "Delta Plan", involved
and higher dikes and numerous flood barriers. The latest of those flood
barriers to be completed was the storm surge barrier in the Nieuwe Waterweg
near Hoek van Holland.
Two enormous doors mounted on swing arms can be used
to close off the Nieuwe Waterweg, should storm and high water require so in
order to protect the country from flooding.
The development of Europoort ("Euro gate") started in 1957. A large complex
of ports and industrial areas was created between Rotterdam and the entry to
the North Sea. When more space was needed, the Maasvlakte ("Maas Flats")
created. By means of dikes, dams and sand deposits the coast line was
altered to include many square kilometers of newly created land.
The deepest ports are of course the ones closest to the coast. The largest
one is the 8ste Petroleumhaven (8th Petrol Harbor), which is in fact located
already outside the Dutch coastline. This is where supertankers, mostly from
the Arabian Gulf, are unloaded.
Another huge artificial port is the Missisippihaven, where a very large ore
terminal is located. At the EECV terminal in the Caland channel the largest
carriers of the world can be serviced.
The Europoort region is the most
important mass goods transfer
location in Europe.
The largest terminals here are primarily dedicated to the handling of ore
and coal. The coal terminal is not only used to forward coal inland, but
also to provide the Maasvlakte power station with fuel. An underground
conveyor belt transports coal straight from the ships into the
bunkers of the power plant.
The bulk of the incoming ore and coal is transferred into smaller ships,
barges and trains, which take care of further transport into Europe. Much of
the ore goes to the Ruhr region in Germany to feed the smelters of the
German steel industry.
Apart from fluid and dry bulk goods, containers have become more and more
important, since containers can be shipped much more efficiently than
Containers come in two standard sizes, 20 and 40 ft., which makes it
possible for container ships to be be stowed without wasting any space at
Most of the containers are transferred at Europe Combined Terminals (ECT),
The large ECT Maasvlakte plant services the largest ships and forwards a
staggering amount of containers each year. Large parts of the plant have
been automated. Driverless lorries move containers around under the
command of computer systems.
The ports further inland are somewhat smaller. Most of the chemical industry
around Rotterdam is located in this area. The five large petrochemical
companies (Shell, BP, Esso, Kuwait Petroleum and Texaco) have refineries
here, and over 20 large chemical companies have their
various processing plants in all shapes and sizes. These companies are fully
dependent upon the port of Rotterdam to provide them with raw material
(crude oil) and upon the logistics of the entire sector to distribute
semi-finished and end products between plants and companies. Extensive
piping systems transfer the chemicals from plant to plant, so that one
installation can take in crude oil and produce derivatives, and then pipe
those directly into the next plant where they are processed further into end
All this shipping, transferring, storaging and forwarding are in operation
24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Needless to say that both roads and
railways in the area
must be expanded regularly to cope with the growing need for transportation.
Be it dry bulk or fluid, containers or cars, cocoa, coffee or tropical
fruit - the port of Rotterdam can handle it all.
The enormous amount of goods
that passes through this port (some 300 million tons a year) truly
make the port of Rotterdam live up to its reputation:
GATEWAY TO EUROPE.
If you like to see the Maasvlakte live, go to
the webcam will point for you to any direction you choose!
Pictures of Hofplein and Map of the Port of Rotterdam taken from the
official website of Rotterdam.
The picture of the tanker has been taken during a former visit to this port.