Rotterdam offers us the luxury of space and no draft restrictions

For some twenty years already, Fokke van der Weij has been a pilot in the port of Rotterdam. Still, the 7th of April was a special day. Never before did he escort such a large ship to the Amazonehaven at the Maasvlakte.

The recently completed widening of this port basin made it possible to handle the 396-metre long and 54-metre wide CMA CGM Marco Polo at the south side of the ECT Delta Terminal for the very first time. Fokke van der Weij and Ytze Bakker were the first pilots to escort a ship as large as the Marco Polo to and from the renewed Amazonehaven. Fokke van der Weij: "Of course, we extensively practiced entering the renewed port basin - widened by 55 metres to 310 metres - on the simulator beforehand." But today it was real. "Initially the weather looked fine but once on board on the North Sea I noticed some heavy showers approaching. I therefore decided to order a third tug. Not necessary in retrospect, but better safe than sorry."

Convenient to approach
The master of the CMA CGM Marco Polo, Velibor Krpan, attentively listens to the pilot's story. The Croat has been captain aboard the container vessels of the French shipping line for eleven years and at sea already for 24 years. He has lost count of the number of times he has visited Rotterdam. "But at least a few times a year." Capt. Krpan likes to call at Rotterdam. "Compared with most other European ports, Rotterdam is quite convenient to approach. You have the luxury of space and no draft restrictions. In all other ports, we are confronted with draft limitations in one form or another."

Over 100,000 hp
According to Capt. Krpan there is not much difference between sailing the 16,000-TEU CMA CGM Marco Polo and his previous ship of 13,000 TEU. "The bigger the size, the more stress," he says laughing. "Controlling the speed at all times is what matters most when entering a port. Our engines have a capacity of more than 100,000 hp. But for us sailing into the port of Rotterdam is pretty much a matter of routine. The pilot does the job. He is in constant contact with the tugs and boatmen. I assist him wherever possible. After all, he has to deal with so much information and no one is a machine."

Much more room to manoeuvre
From the moment pilot Van der Weij boarded the CMA CGM Marco Polo at sea to the moment the ship was safely moored only took about 2.5 hours. The ECT Delta Terminal is situated almost directly on the North Sea. "In view of the quay planning, ECT wanted us to enter the Amazonehaven backward. Right in front of the port basin we made the turn. The widening has given us significantly more space there and the port basin is much easier to navigate. It’s really a substantial difference. But of course, you must always take into consideration the wind."

Investment of 200 million euros
Ships the size of the CMA CGM Marco Polo and even larger will from now on be frequent guests in the 2400-metre Amazonehaven. After the expansion project that took more than three years and an investment of 200 million euros, the port basin is fully ready for them.

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