Whisky was drunk
Soon it was impossible to imagine logistics without the container. “These steel cargo boxes led to a huge productivity increase in transport. Things could be done much quicker and cheaper now. Ships used to be in port for weeks, but now the same work was done in just a few days,” says Kuipers. “The impact on the world economy was immense.” According to The Economist, the container has been more of a driver of global trade than all trade agreements in the past fifty years taken together. And not just that, the container brings other advantages as well. Kuipers: “For instance, in the old days it wasn’t possible to transport whisky by ship, because the dockers would drink part of it. But stowed in a container it was no longer in reach. Obviously there are disadvantages as well; drugs for instance, are often hidden in containers.”
The port of Rotterdam was one of the first ports to take containers seriously from the start. With the Rotterdam Municipal Port Management as co-initiator, a number of stevedoring companies established the Europe Container Terminals (ECT). “ECT fully focused on container transhipment and for that purpose it developed and exploited the first specialised container terminal, in the Eemhaven,” says Rob Bagchus, Chief Public Affairs & Public Relations Officer of ECT. “This innovation and many that have followed since, have given Rotterdam a lead over other ports. Thanks to ECT the port of Rotterdam has become a big player in the container business.”
Since then, container transhipment in Rotterdam has developed at top speed. Container cargo is usually measured in TEU, which means Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, i.e. a twenty-foot container. A regular large container, like the ones you see on trucks, is two TEU. The short, smaller container is one TEU. Over the years, the number of transhipped containers rose fast, from just 65,000 TEU in 1968, to 1 million in 1974 and 12 million in 2015. And the port continues to grow; the construction of a new generation of revolutionary container terminals at Maasvlakte 2 being one example. “As a port, we never cease to do our utmost to offer companies the right circumstances to settle here, so that they will continue to invest in the port of Rotterdam, and sufficient business activity is being attracted,” says Emile Hoogsteden, director Containers, Breakbulk and Logistics of the Port of Rotterdam Authority.