The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport, and it is the second biggest city in The Netherlands. Located about 34 nautical miles downstream from the Port of Moerdijk on the New Meuse and 70 kilometers southwest of the Port of Amsterdam, the Port of Rotterdam is about 100 nautical miles directly east of the Port of Felixstowe in England. In 2007, the Port of Rotterdam was home to over 584 thousand people, and the urban area contained almost 896 thousand people.

The Port of Rotterdam is the base of the city’s economy. Located in the heart of Europe’s industrialized, highly-populated triangle of the German Ruhr district, Paris, and London, the Port of Rotterdam is strategically positioned on the world’s busiest sea. It is an important distribution point for products going all over inland Europe. The Port of Rotterdam also has a busy petrochemical industry and several oil refineries. Crude oil arrives by sea to be processed and delivered to areas in The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. 

Port Commerce 

The Port of Rotterdam Authority develops, operates, and manages the Port of Rotterdam facilities and industrial area. The Port Authority is a limited public company owned by the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Netherlands. The Port Authority for the Port of Rotterdam is responsible for promoting safe and effecting shipping in the port and developing, constructing, and managing the port area.

The Port Authority assures that the docks in the Port of Rotterdam are maintained at a depth that allows ships to enter the port and moor safely. It supervises all movements on the water and monitors port traffic. By developing and managing port properties, the Port Authority makes sure there is enough space for companies to operate in the Port of Rotterdam, and it builds and improves roads, rail, inland waterways, and underground pipelines.

The Port Authority is committed to sustainable economic development of the Port of Rotterdam by working with government and business, both local and international, to maintain a climate that attracts new businesses, retains established businesses, and strengthen the Port of Rotterdam’s competitive position. Finally, the Port Authority conducts marketing and promotional activities to further the interests of the Port of Rotterdam and the community.

In 2010, the Port of Rotterdam was the fourth busiest port in the world based on cargo volumes. The Port of Rotterdam follows Shanghai (650 million tons), Ningbo/Zhoushan (627 million tons), and Singapore (502.5 million tons). The Port of Rotterdam was the only non-Asian port in the ten busiest ports of the world.

The Port of Rotterdam far out-performed other European ports. With 429.9 million tons of cargo in 2010, the second busiest European port was Antwerp which handled 178.2 million tons of cargo.

In 2010, the Port of Rotterdam handled a total of almost 430 million tons of cargo, including almost 305 million tons of imports and over 125 million tons of exports. Within this total was 84.6 million tons of dry bulk cargoes, 209.4 million tons of liquid bulk, 23.7 million tons of breakbulk cargo, and 112.3 million tons of containerized cargo.

Bulk cargoes handled in the Port of Rotterdam in 2010 included 84.6 million tons of dry bulk goods and 209.4 million tons of liquid bulk goods. Liquid bulk cargoes included crude oil (100.3 million tons), mineral oil products (77.6 million tons), and other liquid bulk (31.5 million tons). Dry bulk cargoes through the Port of Rotterdam included ores and scrap (39.8 million tons), coal (24.1 million tons), agribulk (8.4 million tons), and other dry bulk goods (12.3 million tons).

The Port of Rotterdam handled general cargoes that included over 112 million tons of containerized cargoes, 16.7 million tons of roll-on/roll-off cargoes, and 6.9 million tons of other general cargoes. In 2010, the Port of Rotterdam handled a total of 11.1 million TEUs of containerized cargo. This included 5.7 million TUEs of imports and 5.4 million TEUs of exports.

The Port of Rotterdam handled a total of 66.6 million tons of dry bulk cargoes, including 57.1 million tons of imports and 9.5 million tons of exports. The total cargoes of 24.8 million tons of coal was the largest share of dry bulk cargo, including 23.7 million tons of imports and 1.2 million tons of exports. The second biggest dry bulk cargo was iron ore and scrap totaling 23.3 million tons (with 20.2 million tons of imports and 3.1 million tons of exports).

In 2010, over 34.4 thousand ocean-going vessels called at the Port of Rotterdam. Of these, 29.8 thousand were cargo vessels, 17 were cruise ships, and 4.6 thousand were other ships. The Port of Rotterdam estimated that 108 thousand inland vessels called at port.

The Port of Rotterdam covers a total area of over 10.5 thousand hectares (26 thousand acres), including 5.1 thousand hectares of industrial sites and 5.5 thousand hectares of infrastructure and water surface. The port is 40 kilometers (25 miles) long and contains 89 kilometers (55 miles) of quays and 1500 kilometers (932 miles) of pipelines. When Maasvlakte 2 is completed, the port area will grow by 20%.

The Port of Rotterdam contains tank storage for 30 million cubic meters of liquids, including refinery storage for crude oil (12 million cubic meters), refinery storage for mineral oil products (6.7 million cubic meters), independent storage for mineral oil products (5.5 million cubic meters), independent storage for chemical products (2.3 million cubic meters), independent storage for vegetable oils and fats (1.1 million cubic meters), and independent storage for crude oil (800 thousand cubic meters).

The Port of Rotterdam has 300 thousand cubic meters of storage space for agribulk cargoes with additional floating storage as needed. More than 200 exporters and importers of fresh foods use the Port of Rotterdam. The port contains about three million square meters of capacity in conventional sheds. The Port of Rotterdam also has over 600 pallet places for climate-controlled storage (of 1.8 million cubic meters) and more than 250 thousand pallet places for cold storage (of 750 thousand cubic meters).

European Bulk Services is completing a 4.8-hectare site near the Laurenshaven Terminal that will add capacity for from 250- to 300-thousand tons of dry bulk cargoes like coal and minerals.

The Port of Rotterdam contains 122 jetties and 23 berths on buoys. It maintains 29 tug boats and 6 pilot boats. The Port of Rotterdam has ample cargo-handling equipment, including 162 multi-purpose cranes, 103 container gantry cranes, 25 floating cranes, 22 ship-to-shore bulk cranes, 12 container cranes (rail terminals), and ten sheer leg cranes.

The Port of Rotterdam has over 90 terminals specializing in different types of cargoes. There are 35 terminals for liquid bulk cargoes, 17 multi-purpose terminals, and 15 dry bulk terminals. The Port of Rotterdam contains nine container terminals for deep-sea, short-sea, and inland shipping. It also has seven roll-on/roll-off terminals. It contains three juice terminals and two fruit terminals. The Port of Rotterdam also has one terminal each for steel and paper, cars, and cruise vessels. The steel and paper terminal is an all-weather terminal.

The Port of Rotterdam is a gateway to a market of more than 500 million European consumers, and it handles over 400 million tons of cargoes every year. Over 500 liner services make scheduled calls at the Port of Rotterdam and connect it with more than a thousand ports around the world.

Located directly on the North Sea, the Port of Rotterdam can handle the largest ocean-going vessels 24 hours a day throughout the year. With depth of 24 meters, the Port of Rotterdam has no locks. The Port of Rotterdam’s terminals at Maasvlakte can be reached from the pilot station within an hour or two. Off the North Sea coast, the Eurogeul has been dug to accommodate the world’s largest vessels, at 57 kilometers long and a depth of 23 meters. Maasvlakte 2 will be open soon, offering a depth of 20 meters to make the port accessible to container ships that cannot berth in other European ports.

The Port of Rotterdam handles all imaginable types of cargoes and is a vital link in the “supply chain” necessary to get products from factories to consumers. Cargoes are handled by specialized companies that work with chemicals, liquid and dry bulk, ores, refrigerated cargoes and food, vehicles, general cargo, and containers. Wherever possible, companies are clustered so that the Port of Rotterdam is really a collection of smaller specialized ports. There are also many companies in the region that specialize in storage, transshipment, transport, and industrial processing of cargoes.

The Port of Rotterdam distributes cargoes to inland Europe’s huge market of consumers through five transportation modes: roads, railways, pipelines, inland ships, and coastal ships. All industrial and economic centers in Western Europe can be reached from the Port of Rotterdam within 24 hours of arriving at port.

For many years, the Port of Rotterdam has been an important world center for oil and chemicals. Many leading international oil and chemicals companies have offices in the Port of Rotterdam. There are four world-class refineries in Rotterdam, over 40 chemical and petrochemical companies, three industrial gas producers, and 13 tank storage and distribution companies. These operations are connected through a network of over 1500 kilometers of pipelines.

The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest center for agri-business. It handles about 83 million metric tons of bulk cargoes each year, and dry agribulk cargoes make up some 10 million metric tons of that total. The Port of Rotterdam works with several major agricultural trading houses as well as a wide range of food processors and manufacturers, packagers, transport and storage companies, and service providers.

With a huge number of modern facilities, unrivalled sea access, and excellent inter-modal connections with a vast hinterland, the Port of Rotterdam handles every type of breakbulk cargo from steel and project cargo to forest products and automobiles, among many others. The Port of Rotterdam contains 27 breakbulk and roll-on/roll-off terminals that handle some 25.6 million tons of cargo each year.

The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s main container port, handling an average of almost 10 million TEUs every year. It is accessible to the latest generations of container ships and has dedicated container terminal facilities. Its hinterland connections, inland waterways, short-sea feeders, and rail services assure fast turn-around and reliable distribution of cargoes. The Port of Rotterdam is handling an increasing volume of fresh fruit, vegetables, and juices and has some seven thousand reefer points and about 2.5 million cubic meters of cold storage for those cargoes.

The new Maasvlakte 2 will soon offer companies using the Port of Rotterdam a new location in the European market. The land reclamation project will provide about one thousand hectares of space earmarked for container-related activities and for new companies. The Maasvlakte 2 facilities will increase the port and industrial complex by some 20% and triple the Port of Rotterdam’s container-handling capacity.

The Port of Rotterdam is also working toward the future, constantly investing in new infrastructure, information technology, industrial sites while also improving the quality of life for people living near the port. The Port of Rotterdam is preparing to reclaim an additional two thousand hectares of industrial land for Maasvlakte 2 to provide space for the port’s growing and future needs. Several projects are underway to improve existing port areas by redeveloping facilities, reclaiming land, and making more effective use of port-related services.

The Port of Rotterdam is always investing in infrastructure (for example, new tunnels, wider roads, more underground pipelines, etc.). Today, the port is working on a dedicated freight railway line to directly link the Port of Rotterdam with the German hinterland. The Port of Rotterdam take special care to assure that development projects are consistent with maintaining a healthy land and water environment.

The Port of Rotterdam’s existing facilities and industrial area is running out of room to operate. In fact, the port expects to run out of large sites between 2012 and 2014. Maasvlakte 2 is being constructed to meet rising demands and to help the Port of Rotterdam maintain its role as Europe’s major seaport. Construction began in 2008, and the Port of Rotterdam expects to process the first containers in Maasvlakte 2 in 2013.

The municipality of Rotterdam has established its goal to have a highly-competitive port that strengthens both the regional and national economies and that improves the quality of life and environment. The Port of Rotterdam is projecting a throughput increase of as much as 40% by the year 2020. The municipality of Rotterdam recently published its new “Port Vision 2020” to outline six concepts that will help the city and the Port of Rotterdam prepare for that future. These include:

  • having a multi-faceted and comprehensive port with space, facilities, and expertise to handle, unpack, process, and transport more cargo and support new business activities;
  • offering sustainable and innovative facilities to cluster companies and cargoes so that they can share facilities, energy sources, and environmentally-friendly technologies;
  • providing a smart port where highly-educated, skilled people can work with education and research institutions to stimulate the development of innovative and service-rendering small companies;
  • continuing to prevent traffic bottlenecks and assuring the fast, safe, and secure handling of cargoes, including hazardous goods;
  • maintaining green and recreational areas in and near the port; and
  • decreasing dust and noise emissions from the port and reducing the risks related to dangerous cargoes and creating environmentally-attractive areas for living and urban development after container activities are moved to Maasvlakte 2. 
Port History

As early as 900 AD, a small settlement at the lower end of the Rotte stream. Floods brought development to an end in the middle 12th Century, and protective dams and dikes began to be built along the banks of the New Meuse. In the 1260s, a dam was built on the Rotte at today’s High Street in the Port of Rotterdam.

The first written mention of the Port of Rotterdam was in 1283 when a tract of reclaimed land was created at the mouth of the Rotte River as a fishing village. It was chartered in 1328, and in 1340, William IV of Holland gave the town permission to build a canal to the Schie. When the canal was finished in 1360, the Port of Rotterdam was soon a major seaport for the region. About two thousand people lived there at the time.

The new canal gave the Port of Rotterdam access to larger cities in the north, and it was quickly an important center for the transshipment of goods between England and Germany. When the sea route to the Indies was discovered in the 17th Century, Dutch commerce and shipping boomed. The Port of Rotterdam was expanded along the Meuse, and before 1700, the Port of Rotterdam was the second most important port in the country after only Amsterdam. It became one of the Dutch East India Company’s six centers in The Netherlands.

During the French occupation of the Napoleonic Wars from 1795 until 1815, the Port of Rotterdam had little trade. After Napoleon fell, trade returned to the Port of Rotterdam. In 1872 as the Meuse-Rhine channels were silting over, the Port of Rotterdam completed the Nieuwe Waterweb (“New Waterway”), opening the city and port to sea-going steamships.

In 1877, the railroad came, crossing the Meuse River and opening the Port of Rotterdam to the southern Netherlands. Bridges were built that opened the river’s south banks, and new larger harbor facilities appeared in the 1890s. Between 1906 and 1930, the Port of Rotterdam Waal Harbor grew to be the world’s biggest dredged harbor. New modern buildings appeared downtown. The rapid development confirmed the Port of Rotterdam’s success.

In 1940, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands by bombing the Port of Rotterdam and threatening to do the same to other cities. Over a third of the port facilities were destroyed. The Luftwaffe bombing near destroyed the city’s heart, killing about 800 people and making about 80 thousand homeless.

Over the first half of the 20th Century, the Port of Rotterdam shifted to the west toward the North Sea until it stretched about 40 kilometers along the river from the historic harbor area in the city center to the Europort on the shores of the North Sea.

In the decades following World War II, the Port of Rotterdam was rebuilt. Modern architectural styles supplanted the old traditional buildings that had been destroyed, and the Port of Rotterdam gained a completely new and contemporary skyline. Out of tragedy, the Port of Rotterdam was at the forefront of modern city planning. The Lijnbaan Shopping Centre became a prototype for pedestrian-only shopping centers in Europe and America.

The Port of Rotterdam is the base and major component of the city’s economy. The established port in the city center is complemented by its modern outport, Europort, giving the Port of Rotterdam capacity for more cargo than any other port in the world. While much of its cargo is crude oil and petroleum products, the Port of Rotterdam is a major grain and general cargo harbor for Europe. With thousands of river barges traveling the Rhine to use the Port of Rotterdam’s facilities, it is an important transshipment center for inland Europe.

Cruising and Travel 

The City of Rotterdam (Dutch) is The Netherlands’ most modern city and its busiest seaport. Due to the extensive damage done to the city center during World War II, it was almost a playground for architects rebuilding the city. People interested in architecture will find it a huge showplace. The Port of Rotterdam has also become one of Europe’s best places to find an exciting nightlife. Shoppers will think the Port of Rotterdam is paradise. The city offers eight shopping routes, including a popular fashion district that will keep happy shoppers busy and satisfied. The city’s beaches offer sunshine and serenity for those who prefer to relax. The Port of Rotterdam has many cultural offerings as well. Museumpark gathers the best museums, including a great art gallery, in town in one convenient location. To learn about the many tourist attractions and activities available in the Port of Rotterdam, please visit the city’s tourism website.

The Port of Rotterdam has an agreeable, temperate climate. Summers are rarely too hot, even in the hottest months. Winters are mild, beginning with wet weather, but January to May are the driest months of the year. Temperatures range from a high of 20 °C (68 °F) in August to a low of 4 °C (39 °F) in January.

Visitors to the Port of Rotterdam will want to check out the Spido Harbourtrips. Located at the foot of the Erasmus Bridge, Spido takes you on a tour of some of the most imposing architecture in the city, including the famous Hotel New York, the Euromast, and the Veerhaven. You can also enjoy the busy traffic of the Port of Rotterdam’s busy waterways as sea-going ships and inland barges pass by. This 75-minute cruise is available all year, but there are longer cruises in July and August. Lasting over two hours, the Extended Harbourtour gives you an unforgettable trip through the international port. The Daytrip Botlek/Europort is a six and a half hour trip through the Port of Rotterdam harbor, and the Daytrip Seven Rivers and Delta Works features the high points of the riverways in a 7-hour water tour.

The Euromast in the Port of Rotterdam is the tallest lookout tower in The Netherlands. High-speed elevators take you to the viewing platforms. The Space Cabin takes you on an adventure of a rocket launch and return, complete with retro thrusters. The Euromast contains the Brasserie with a mouth-watering menu and view of the city. Staying for the night at the Euromast makes travelers feel like royalty, and they have exclusive access to the highest balcony in town from 10pm until 10am.

Diergaarde Blijdorp (the Rotterdam Zoo) is one of the most popular attractions in The Netherlands. Visitors walk through different natural habitats that are home to animals from all over the world. The Oceanium is a water world with exotic fish, puffins, sea otters, water snakes, sharks, and jellyfish. In the Falkland Islands area, you’ll see Emperor Penguins as you walk across moving ice flows. You can go to Africa and walk along the Crocodile River or stand eye-to-eye with giraffes as you explore the savanna. You can explore the Asian tropical forest to see elephants and rhinos or enter the Ice Cave where you can watch polar bears swim under water. The Zoo gets some 1.5 million visitors a year, attesting to its popularity.

The Maritime Museum (Dutch) in the Port of Rotterdam tells the story about the history of the Port of Rotterdam harbor and its maritime past. There is also an outdoor part where visitors can explore a former naval vessel, a 19th Century gunboat restored to its former glory. Founded in 1874, the Maritime Museum is the oldest museum of its type in The Netherlands. Prince Hendrik created the base collection which includes more than half a million objects today. The museum covers five centuries of maritime history. It includes the oldest ship model in Western Europe, the Mataro from the 15th Century. The Maritime Canon captures the 50 most important moments in fascinating stories about the history of The Netherlands. The Professor Splash section, for children from 4 to 10, has over 20 fun activities.


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