Header image

Rotterdam Mainport Development Project

11 May 2021
How can we help you?

An extensive and thorough preparation phase preceded the construction of Maasvlakte 2. As one of the most important ports in the world and as Europe’s biggest port, Rotterdam’s contribution to the Dutch economy is significant.

Towards the end of the last century, there was almost no space available in the existing port and industrial area for new companies or for existing clients who wanted to expand. More space was needed for Rotterdam’s development and competitive position, which is why the Dutch government took the decision to strengthen Mainport Rotterdam. However, this needed to take place with respect for nature, the environment and living environment quality in Rijnmond. The Rotterdam Mainport Development Project (PMR) was established for this.

PMR comprises three sub-projects:

• Maasvlakte 2
Construction of new port area and implementation of associated environmental compensation to compensate for damage to protected nature.
• 750 hectares of new nature and recreational areas
To be developed on Midden-IJsselmonde and to the north of Rotterdam.
• Existing Rotterdam Area

A series of projects to better utilise the port area and improve living environment quality in the Rijnmond region.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority realised Maasvlakte 2 at its own expense and risk. The project was implemented as a business case. The Port Authority shareholders, national government and the Municipality of Rotterdam, monitored progress closely. PMR, part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, bears the responsibility for the environmental compensation. Both the construction and the final use of Maasvlakte 2 should actually be subject to statutory compensation.

Besides the construction of Maasvlakte 2 and compulsory statutory environmental compensation, PMR also includes the impetus to improve the living environment. The Province of South Holland is responsible for the 750-hectare nature and recreational area sub-project. Finally, the Municipality of Rotterdam directed the Existing Rotterdam Area sub-project.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Extremely extensive environmental studies were conducted before the construction of Maasvlakte 2 could start. These environmental studies are required by law. The studies include:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA A)
  • For the sand extraction and realisation of the port expansion
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA B)
  • For the layout and operation of the new port area

Both reports, in total over 6,000 pages of environmental studies, were concluded in 2007. As these studies could be used to take proper and sufficient measures to prevent or compensate for any negative effects, this enabled the authorities to start providing the required permits.

The EIA A and EIA B describe the effects of the construction of use of Maasvlakte 2 and demonstrate the measures that need to be taken in fourteen areas: Traffic and transport, Noise, Air, External safety, Water,
Light, Nature, Landscape, Recreational use, Nautical safety and accessibility, Coast and sea, Environmental quality, Use functions, and Archaeology.

Environmental compensation

Maasvlakte 2 is constructed in the Voordelta, a protected nature conservation area. This took place with respect for nature and the environment, but not without impact on nature. To offset this impact, environmental compensation is provided in accordance with European regulations. This comprised:

• Establishment of a ± 25,000 hectare sea bed protection area with resting areas for birds and seals off the coast of Schouwen-Duiveland, Goeree-Overflakkee and Voorne-Putten;
• Construction of ± 35 hectare new dune area along the Delfland coast, between Hoek van Holland and Ter Heijde.

Monitoring and Evaluation Programmes

The Environmental Impact Assessments Construction and Destination are based on the least favourable situations, or worst-case scenarios. Wide margins were also used. However, did the potential impact anticipated in the studies actually occur during, for instance, sand extraction or land reclamation? Were expectations regarding the environmental values for dune compensation and sea bed protection area realised? And what is the status of the air quality?

Extensive Monitoring and Evaluation Programmes (MEPs) were formulated for the entire lifespan of Maasvlakte 2, in accordance with agreements recorded in the Key Physical Planning Decision Rotterdam Mainport Development Project (PKB PMR 2006). The European Commission was also regularly informed about the outcomes of the monitoring and evaluation programmes because of the Bird and Habitat Directives.
The MEPs have a dual purpose. The first objective is verification: how do the actual effects compare to the predictions in the Construction and Zoning Environmental Impact Assessments? The second is knowledge gathering: new information was generated, as many research studies had never previously been conducted. Before the construction of Maasvlakte 2, there was little knowledge of the consequences of large-scale sand extraction on nature, the sea bed and fish populations. The extensive monitoring programmes are evaluated every five years, with management plans being modified where necessary. Two examples:

Sand Extraction MEP

The large-scale sand extraction on the North Sea is an intervention in which the expected impact is indirect and difficult to trace. The most important ecological effects of sand extraction are expected to be the disappearance of the benthos and later, the natural recovery of the sea bed and benthos at the sand extraction site and in the immediate vicinity of the sand extraction locations. The release of silt may also impact the natural processes in multiple linked food chains (food web) and the number of shellfish and birds.

Sea bed samples

This programme will establish the possible causal relationships between sand extraction and the measured changes, providing insight into the intervention-effect chains. In the vicinity of the sand extraction locations and in the Vlissingen to Wadden Sea area, sea bed samples were taken in 300 places to determine the composition. After the baseline measurements, these measurements were repeated every two years during and after the sand extraction.

Land reclamation MEP

This programme ascertains whether the actual effects of the land reclamation were sufficiently compensated by the results of the environmental compensation measures (sea bed protection area and dunes). The Dutch State was responsible for monitoring and evaluation of the impact of land reclamation.

The Land reclamation MEP involved a large number of sub-studies categorised according to the Voordelta, North Sea and dune eco systems. The following themes will be investigated in the coming years: morphology of the sea bed, life forms on the sea bed (benthos), coastal and sea birds, use function in the sea area (cables, pipelines, fishing), transport of silt, and physical and ecological parameters in the dune areas.

Quality Control Round Table

The Port Authority has paid a lot of attention to stakeholder management. The starting point in this was that the ‘licence to grow’ needed to be earned and awarded. Stakeholders are crucially important in this. The NGOs have also shown courage here. They represented their supporters and interests, but also recognised the need for the port expansion. The compensation projects, combined with independent monitoring and safeguarding via the Quality Control Round Table proved to be valuable. Under the expert leadership of Sybilla Dekker, the Round Table kept a finger on the pulse regarding compliance with all agreements.