Flood Risk Management

Our mission is to ensure that the port is a safe and healthy environment, to limit climate change and to create employment opportunities. In 2015 and 2016, we performed the Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project, which examined potential consequences for the Botlek area of flooding as a result of climate change.

The results show that right now, Rotterdam’s port area is effectively protected against floods. Most of the port area is situated outside the dikes, but the port sites have been realised relatively high above sea level and are partially protected by storm surge barriers. Only under particularly extreme weather conditions will a small number of companies be affected by limited flooding. Indeed, in comparison with other international ports, Rotterdam’s port offers exceptional flood risk management.

The pilot project is a joint initiative of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and Rijkswaterstaat. It was executed in close collaboration with various private sector firms, utility companies and Deltalinqs.

The project was jointly funded by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the Port of Rotterdam Authority in view of Botlek’s economic importance and the presence of vital and vulnerable functions in this area.

Why set up a Flood Risk Management pilot project?

In the port of Rotterdam, promoting safety is a continuous process. And this definitely applies to the theme of flood risk management. Climate change has resulted in rising sea levels and increased the risk of floods. The report ‘Advies Deltaprogramma Rijnmond-Drechtsteden’ published in 2014 concludes that we need to perform targeted research to ensure that local residents and companies in the Rotterdam region are protected against floods in the years ahead. This research was subsequently conducted in four areas that lie beyond the dikes. They are Dordrecht’s historical port area, Noordereiland, Merwe-Vierhavens and Botlek. Botlek was specifically selected for its situation within Rotterdam’s larger port area, its ensuing economic importance and the presence of vital and vulnerable functions.

The Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project is unique, since it is actually the first time the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the port’s private sector worked closely together on a study into the potential consequences of climate change for port areas situated outside the dikes.

Although most of the port area is found outside the dikes, it is a relatively elevated area and furthermore partially protected by storm surge barriers. In contrast with areas situated within the dikes, areas located beyond the dikes do not have to comply with any national flood risk management norms. As far as the potential risks of flooding are concerned, residents and companies set up in areas outside the dikes at their own risk. This means that they themselves bear responsibility for taking measures to limit the potential impact of a flood.

Sea levels are rising due to climate change, which has also increased the risk of floods in the port area. Depending on the severity of the climate change, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) has forecast an increase of 35 to 85 cm in the period until 2100. The present study has taken the impact of the expected climate change into account.

Through this pilot project, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Municipality of Rotterdam, Rijkswaterstaat and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment hope to raise awareness among local firms of the potential threats created by climate change. To ensure that we can maintain a water-safe and sustainable port area in the years ahead, we made a study of possible flood risks and how to keep these at – or bring them to – an acceptable level. Together with the participating port companies, we have formulated a recommended adaptation strategy that mainly centres on joint fact finding, raising awareness and developing and sharing knowledge.


The results of the pilot project served as input for the ‘Strategic Adaptation Agenda for Areas Outside the Dikes’. The final report sets out adjustments and measures (adaptation strategy) that can be taken to avoid or minimise the negative effects of a flood and consequently protect the area in question in the years ahead.

The results of the pilot project show that the main outcome of a possible future flood will be economic damage. This damage comprises both direct damage to buildings, systems and other facilities and indirect damage resulting from business interruption and/or the sub-optimal utilisation of the available infrastructure. There is limited risk of environmental damage and flooding is expected to lead to few or no human casualties.

In some cases, the indirect damage will actually transcend the afflicted area. The various activities at Botlek are not only closely connected and mutually dependent within the area itself, but also interwoven with activities in the surrounding port areas and beyond (in regions like Schiphol and Chemelot, for example). The economic damage is heavily dependent on where the flooding takes place, and the type of company. The pilot project has yielded a recommended adaptation strategy that consists, among other measures, of preventative area programmes, the ‘climate-robust’ development of new sites and contingency plans at the company and area levels. In 2017, we will be examining a number of elements and/or sub-areas of the Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project in further detail.

In 2017, we will also be performing a comparable study for the port areas Waal-Eemhaven and Merwe-Vierhavens.

Direct occasion for the Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project

The Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project focused on specific parts of Rotterdam’s port area (Botlek and Vondelingenplaat). Despite the relatively protected position of these areas, their economic importance at the regional, national and international levels, the types of economic activity that are accommodated here and the presence of vulnerable infrastructure – combined with their situation outside the dikes on the edge of various rivers and the North Sea – called for a study into the potential consequences of flooding.

Why did we select this area?

The Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project is part of the Delta Programme. Both the Rotterdam Adaptation Strategy (RAS) and Rijnmond Drechtsteden Delta Programme have identified a number of areas where there is a growing risk of floods as a result of climate change. These observations were accompanied by the acknowledgement that it is necessary to develop a joint adaptation strategy.

Situation in the port area

The Botlek area (including Vondelingenplaat) is situated in a section of the port area that is partly protected by storm surge barriers. Another part has an open connection with the nearby North Sea. The area is home to the storm surge barrier Maeslantkering, which makes up the larger Europoortkering together with Hartelkering and the dike ring at Rozenburg. These barriers are closed during high water levels (NAP +3 metres and higher) to protect the hinterland against floods.


It should be noted in this context that the Maeslantkering has a failure probability of 1:100. Statistically speaking, this means that on average, the storm surge barrier will fail one out of every hundred times it is required to close – due to a technical malfunction, for example. The open connection with the sea is via the waterways Hartelkanaal and Calandkanaal, on the southern and western edges of the pilot project area. If the sea water levels were to become very high at some point in the future, the floodwater could flow via Hartelkanaal and Calandkanaal towards Nieuwe Waterweg – i.e. across the Botlek area. This could result in damage to local companies and vulnerable infrastructure.

Along Hartelkanaal, one also finds Tuimelkade, which was constructed in 1996 when Hartelkanaal gained a direct connection with the North Sea. While Tuimelkade provides additional protection, this facility does not have any formal status and is managed by the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

Types of economic activity

The Botlek area is of major economic importance and is home to a large number of petrochemical and chemical companies. The area serves as a hub for numerous supra-regional activities and offers hinterland connections via rail, road and water to Southwestern Europe. An extensive network of pipelines offers a safe, efficient and environmentally-friendly transport solution for a variety of liquid bulk, including crude oil and oil products. The companies set up in the port itself are also connected by pipelines, and Botlek is also connected by pipeline with key destinations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Assessment framework

What can be deemed an ‘acceptable risk’? This is a difficult question to answer in the case of an area outside the dikes.
To allow for a joint evaluation of the flood risks that involves multiple parties (both public and private), we have developed a tailored assessment framework.
This framework makes use of accepted (public) risk assessment frameworks (relating to water safety and external safety). After being tested and fine-tuned by users and experts, this procedure resulted in an initial proposal regarding acceptable failure probabilities on the basis of casualties and economic and environmental damage. We will further develop this assessment framework in the period ahead.

Interpretation of the results

The pilot project has made use of the best models and data available at the time. Nevertheless, the various adopted methodologies still contain quite a few hypotheses and provisional elements. In contrast with areas within the dikes, this field of inquiry is still relatively unexplored. This has undoubtedly influenced the results, which should therefore be taken as first indications rather than fact.

Flooding in the Botlek area would also have major consequences for crisis management measures. For example, it will become next to impossible for most emergency services to access the flooded areas. In addition, if the A15 motorway were to be flooded, this would limit evacuation options in the surrounding dike rings (Rozenburg, Voorne-Putten). The pilot project has yielded numerous insights for the participating companies and public authorities that can be used to further improve their crisis management programmes.

Do you have any questions about the Botlek Flood Risk Management pilot project? Feel free to contact us via email: waterveiligheidbotlek@portofrotterdam.com (link stuurt een e-mail)

The following parties were also involved in the pilot project:
• Companies in the Botlek area and Waal-Eemhaven
• Deltalinqs
• Deltaprogramma Ruimtelijke Adaptatie – Vitaal en Kwetsbaar.
• Hollandse Delta Water Board
• Province of Zuid Holland
• Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region
• Utilities
• Sector organisations (VNCI, TLN, etc.)
• Rail and road authorities


We are committed to ensuring that the port and its environs are safe, healthy and appealing. We aim to counter climate change while ensuring that the port area makes a significant contribution to Dutch prosperity and employment.

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