The initiation of the project took place in FutureLand, the information centre about the port of Rotterdam on the Maasvlakte. There, an exhibition will also be inaugurated today on this sizeable project, which represents an important improvement for the accessibility of the Botlek and the competitive position of the port of Rotterdam.
The Nieuwe Waterweg, the canal between Rotterdam and the North Sea, was opened in 1872 and forms the basis of the development of Rotterdam as the most important port in Europe. The waterway will be deepened over a length of 25 kilometres. From Hoek van Holland to the Benelux tunnel, including the connecting Botlek port. It is a necessary step which will improve accessibility to the Botlek ports. The deepening process will take approximately six months. It will be carried out by Koninklijke Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Maassluis to the Benelux Tunnel and the Botlek) and Van der Kamp B.V. (from the Nieuwe Waterweg Maassluis to Hoek van Holland).
Stronger competitive position
“The deepening of the Nieuwe Waterweg and the Botlek is an investment in the accessibility of the Rotterdam Mainport. We are opening the door further, which will quickly give the port of Rotterdam the space for the ever larger sea-going vessels. The deepening of the waterway will ensure a better competitive position for companies in the Botlek area”, according to the minister. Medium-sized tankers and dry bulk carriers are getting bigger. The deepening will allow the so-called New Panamax and Aframax ships to navigate the Nieuwe Waterweg without any restrictions. “If larger tankers can enter the Botlek port, it will reinforce the business case for investments in capacity expansion. Larger ships translate into more cargo, more cargo handling and a better utilisation of storage tanks. Currently, one large vessel can enter with every tide. Soon – in favourable circumstances – this will be three large vessels. That is a big step forward”, says Ronald Paul, COO at the Port of Rotterdam Authority.
Rijkswaterstaat will deepen the Nieuwe Waterweg and the Port of Rotterdam Authority will deepen the Botlek. The deepening will encompass three different contract depths. The depth of the Botlek will go from ≈ 14.5 m (New Amsterdam Water Level (NAP)) to ≈ 15.90 m. Along the Nieuwe Waterweg, the first stretch from Hoek van Holland to Maassluis will be deepened from ≈ 15m to ≈ 16.20m. The second section up to the Benelux Tunnel will have a guaranteed depth of ≈ 16.40m. It used to be ≈ 14.5m. The additional 20 centimetres are connected to the lower salt content inland of the Nieuwe Waterweg which means ships need a greater water depth. After the deepening, ships with a draught of up to 15 metres, under normal circumstances, will be able to sail into the Botlek port. Ships with a draught of maximum 14.90 metres can already sail through the new Panama Canal, so New Panamax ships will be able to reach the Botlek without any restrictions.
The dredging work will take place in the same way as regular maintenance dredging in the ports and along the river. There will be no extra disturbance to the surroundings, shipping or the workers at the port.
The Nieuwe Waterweg was constructed in 1872 under the direction of civil engineer Pieter Caland and forms the final section that connects Rotterdam with the sea. At the time, the length of the breach that was cut through the dunes near what we now call the Hoek van Holland was only 4.3 km. The Nieuwe Waterweg is affected by complex currents such as the ebb and flow of the tides, currents flowing inland and currents flowing towards the sea. For this reason, the depth of the Nieuwe Waterweg must be maintained by constant dredging.
The Botlek was constructed between 1955 and 1960. This port area is mainly characterised by petrochemical industry and tank storage companies. The first company to set up here was Dow Chemical in 1956, followed in 1957 by the Cornelis Verolme shipyard. By 1961 all of the land had been allocated.
Nieuwe Waterweg Exhibition
Visitors to FutureLand will learn more about this extensive project in the temporary exhibition starting 27 March: From deep to deeper. In the heart of the port, they will experience first-hand what is involved when 5 million cubic metres of dredged material is released at the large-scale deepening. This while the more than 130,000 ships that visit Rotterdam annually sail through the working area day and night. And salt seawater may not enter the water system. But also the supply of electricity, gas and telecommunications via cables and pipes at the bottom of the river may not be interrupted. And shipwrecks and explosives must first be safely cleared away. All of these aspects will be addressed in the exhibition that can be viewed in FutureLand until 1 April 2019.
The Deepening of the Nieuwe Waterweg project comprises the deepening of the Botlek and - over a distance of 25 kilometres - the deepening of the Nieuwe Waterweg, the Scheur and the Nieuwe Maas.