The Port of Rotterdam

Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash

De Haven van Rotterdam

The Port of Rotterdam is the largest seaport in Europe and the world’s largest outside of Asia. From 1962 to 2004 it was the largest port by annual cargo tonnage but was then overtaken by Singapore and Shanghai. In 2020 it was the world’s 10th largest container port in terms of 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) handled.

Our 40km boat tour of the Port

We boarded a large vessel owned by Spido BV named after Royal Navy Captain James Cook. The commentary was in English and Dutch but I had my own guide. For 13 years Madelon was in charge of shipping container movements in one of the five port concession areas. In 2018, the port handled 15 million TEUs of trade containers. In that year 123,859 merchant ships sailed in and out of Rotterdam. For 25 years her father, a Dutch Merchant Navy Captain, was one who traded on the high seas. A modern Port Coordination Centre controls entry, exit and manoeuvring of all vessels in the port. 

Photo by author

The area covered by the different port facilities is 127 square kilometres with 7,000 companies. It employs 90,000 people directly but an estimated 385,000 including indirect support industries.

To learn more about the operations of the port, in English, see: 

Or, if you wish to learn more of the story of the port and its future, in Dutch with English subtitles, see

The Port’s innovative future

Electric water taxis and inland barges are already in use. Lighter, more effective solar panels are built for shipping and port facilities. Imported scrap metal is recycled. A project called Porthos is underway to capture CO2, compress it and pipe it to storage in empty North Sea gas fields. The target is a reduction in CO2 of 55% by 2030 and to be CO2 neutral by 2050.
A 20 square mile, 20 metre deep new harbour, Maasvlakte, is being dredged from the sea at the outer entrance to the port. The €3Bn project will allow the big container ships to unload outside the main port.

New leisure beaches are planned on the local coastline

Europe’s largest green hydrogen plant is planned to be operational by Shell in 2025. It will produce 60,000kgs of renewable Hydrogen per day. The electrolysers needed will be powered by an offshore wind farm. (Hydrogen is the power of the future for jet aircraft and large, heavy duty trucks and will feature in a future article.)

By 2035, Rotterdam will be the EU’s gateway to the world and the entrance to Europe for much of its trade. With one exception, that is Russia. 13% of trade transhipped to Rotterdam was Russian. Under the 5th Ukrainian sanctions package all Russian vessels are banned from accessing EU ports.
Sadly, between 2019 and 2020 exports from the UK to the Netherlands dropped by £6.8Bn and imports by £9Bn.

It’s been a hot day so we drive to a shady park by the harbour for a late afternoon meal in the Harbour Club. Madelon chooses Steak Tartare and the sauce is prepared at the table side. It is our best restaurant on this trip so far.

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Our last day together for a while

It will soon be time to pack our cases for Madelon to return to Spain after three months and for me to make a short visit to England for my Squadron reunion and then return to Spain.

Madelon arranges a small party in the Familiehuis to say thank you and farewell to friends. We have one last restaurant booking for two. It’s on the SS Rotterdam we sailed past yesterday. She brought her father here after he retired. This is the best restaurant of the trip and she saved it until last.
Thank you for all the memories.

Madelon and Mike photo by author