Rotterdam is the coolest

Source: Port of Rotterdam Authority

As from this ‘reefer season’, the number of connections for reefer containers in the Port of Rotterdam is being expanded from 12,400 to 18,500. The rise with 50% can be contributed to the new Maasvlakte 2 terminals Rotterdam World Gateway (1,700 reefer plugs) and APM Terminal MV2 (4,500). The total is 2-3 times the capacity of the number two in the Hamburg-Le Havre Range. Also compared to the, in total handling capacity, larger container ports in Asia, Rotterdam takes a top position. 

By far the largest number of reefer points, 17,600, can be found at the eight main sea terminals. The other 1,000 are distributed over specialised inland shipping terminals (300) and depots for container storage (800). For all container terminals, capacities and locations click here.

Sea terminals

About 80% of the connections at the sea terminals are concentrated at the five terminals on the Maasvlakte, although the two deep-sea terminals in the Waal/Eemhaven area have relatively many connections. Uniport still ranks two in this respect, after APMT MV2. The total capacity/connections per terminal is:

Total capacity (TEU/year) (1)

1. ECT City

2. Uniport

3. RST

4. Euromax

5. APMT Rotterdam

6. ECT Delta

7. RWG


Most of the services that call in at ECT City and Uniport terminals arrive from Latin-America, South and West Africa, Oceania and Iceland/Norway. These are the source areas for meat, fish and fruit; by far the most important products for reefer containers.


These frozen or refrigerated products are stored temporarily very close (Eemhaven, Maasvlakte) to the terminals in coldstores and/or have a final destination on the continent a relatively short distance from Rotterdam, up to 500 kilometres.

There is a large

-direct substantial demand from consumers, whether or not via wholesale points such as those from Brussels, Paris/Rungis, Venlo and Barendrecht. Consolidation with Dutch horticultural products takes place at the latter locations.

- indirect demand from the traditionally strong regional/national food processing industry. These also generate re-export in reefer containers and export of Dutch products, especially dairy and potato products. Onions, flower bulbs and seed are important export products too.

In addition there is increased sea-to-sea transit from the southern hemisphere especially to Russia, and from Scandinavia to Asia (fish).

The favourable supply and demand situation is reinforced by the fact that many services, of which almost all those from Latin-America, call in at Rotterdam as the first port of unloading.

Handling capacity

Mostly forty-foot containers are connected to the 17,500 connections at sea terminals. With a multiplying factor of 1.8, the static capacity is over 30,000 TEU. With an average connection time of 3 to 4 days, the points' maximum output could amount to 3 million TEU per year. Of course the actual results are reduced by seasonal influences (harvest and consumption patterns) while being stimulated by the value of the cargo and the higher costs of terminal spaces.


Consumption and production patterns are shifting, shipping lines change system (large Asia-services loading African cargo in Southern Europe) and others shift cargo from Waal/Eemhaven westward. It all means that Maasvlakte is becoming increasingly important for cargo in reefer containers. The increase in shipping between the southern hemisphere and North Western Europe works in the same way.

The dynamics aren't limited to the sea side. Food has a strong emotional component and its transportation also needs to meet increasingly stricter quality requirements. Sustainability is an element of this and that is why more inland shipping is being used to and from Rotterdam for hinterland transport.

The dynamics for both sea and land mean that on the hubs, the terminals, there is a rising demand for interim storage and reefer points. The hinterland also changes in this respect. Traditionally, the Netherlands have an enormous coldstore capacity in the hinterland. Since a few years, the cool chain is extended up to and including the inland terminals as well. Barge transport of reefers will grow more important for intra-port transport too. Rotterdam Cool Port, which is expected to be kicked off this year, will be supplied from Maasvlakte by barges. In Cool Port (Waal/Eemhaven area) the cargo is reloaded in trucks, trains, barges again and short sea vessels. The latter transport mode also supplies cargo from Iceland, Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula and Mediterranean.


The export of seasonal fruit from South America and South Africa starts in February, which means almost all the fruit, with the exception of bananas which are produced all year. In Rotterdam, the container share in this is now full reefer vessels with pallets in their holds and containers as deck load.

The structural demand for fruit in Western Europe is hardly increasing but it is in Central Europe. The strongest growth, however, is taking place in the Middle East and Asia (taste development plus increased buying power). As a result, and reinforced by the euro/dollar ratio, more fruit flows to Asia. Increasing supply is expected but it takes time before new trees and plants are productive.

Starting from tomorrow, 4 February, the `Fruit Logistica´ will take place in Berlin, one of the largest annual trade fairs for the global fruit and food sector.

(1) The total handling capacity of ECT City, ECT Delta and Euromax terminals in 2014/2015 is not supplied. The numbers in the table are those of February 2012 as published in public sources.

Choose your language

The page is not available in chosen language.

Go to the front page