On the edge of Europe’s bustling shipping lanes lies Maasvlakte 2, an expansion of the Port of Rotterdam that years ago was just a stretch of the North Sea. Now, it contains state-of-the-art terminals and towering remote-controlled cranes. It consists of 5,000 acres of land reclaimed from the sea, something the Dutch are famous for. Its berths can service the world’s largest ships. But how was this port expansion created?
Creating land where there is water
The need for Maasvlakte 2 arose from the increasing demand for port capacity, driven by the growth in global trade and the advent of ever-larger container ships. The Port of Rotterdam, already one of the world’s busiest ports, foresaw the need to expand to keep up with the growth of both ships and trade. The Port started planning and designing.
After extensive research into the potential environmental implications of the project, official approval for the project was given. Boskalis and Van Oord started the massive dredging operations to reclaim the land from the North Sea. The sand was dredged from the sea bed with Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers and deposited in the designated areas.
Infrastructure and technology
The next phase of the project entailed the development of the infrastructure. BAM Infra started the construction of roads, railways, and other essential infrastructure, like utilities. At the same time, work on the new port started. Quay walls were built to accommodate the mega container ships.
APM Terminals developed the new Maasvlakte terminal. Remote-controlled Ship-to-Shore cranes were installed, as well as AGVs that were going to move containers from and to the ships.
Minimising environmental impact with sustainable design
One of the critical pillars of the Port of Rotterdam’s strategy for the future is to become a green port. To ensure the new Maasvlakte 2 had energy from renewable sources, wind turbines were installed on land and in the North Sea, and smart grid solutions are used to optimize power usage across the new port facilities.
This wasn’t the only environmental consideration. Eco-friendly construction practices were used. Certain species were carefully relocated when needed, and various new natural areas were created to ensure local flora and fauna had ample space to prosper on the new land.
Maasvlakte 2 is thriving
The terminals and facilities within the Maasvlakte 2 area have been fully operational since 2016, and the new port facilities are a big success. The companies involved have set new standards for port construction and operations in efficiency, innovation, and sustainability.
The Rise of Off-Coast Ports
Creating new port areas off-coast or offshore has many benefits. They can efficiently be designed to accommodate larger vessels. Traditional ports are often hindered by size or depth restraints. Another benefit is the location, which can be chosen away from populated areas, lessening the impact on already busy road systems. Security can be taken into account when designing the ports. Their isolated location can make tighter security controls easier. A final benefit is the economic development new ports can spark. Economic zones develop near ports, attracting business and investment opportunities.
Header image courtesy of Port of Rotterdam and Danny Cornelissen