In the afternoon of 18 September 2008, ten participants from the European Economic and Social Committee – nine members, among them the President of the Various Interests Group, and one person from the Secretariat of the Employers' Group – started their study tour from Brussels by bus.

Upon arrival in Rotterdam, the group was warmly welcomed at the Port Authority by Mr Frans van Keulen, Dept. Chief External relations officer, who gave a general, but comprehensive presentation about the Port of Rotterdam. At the end, the group had the opportunity to visit even the security headquarters.

Afterwards, the group had an impressing tour by night of the harbour facilities on board of the Port Authority's M.S. "Nieuwe Maze" accompanied by an excellent dinner and discussions hosted by Mr Victor Schoenmakers, Director Europe, and Mr Jacco van der Tak, responsible for European Affairs, both from the Port Authority.

The second day started with an overall visit of the big port area, in particular the two levees (in Dutch: stormvloedkering) – each of them 210 m long – which can be closed automatically within two hours in case of a storm tide in order to avoid a tragedy like in 1952 when about 2 000 people were killed.

The group had also a guided tour through the ECT Delta container terminal with all its facilities. Nowadays, the handling is more or less automated by means of an electronic card for every container with all necessary details, e.g. seal no, ship's name.

Some interesting facts about the Port of Rotterdam:

  • Third-largest port worldwide after Shanghai and Singapore and largest in Europe
  • Ships with a capacity of 13.000 containers (five years ago, only 7.000)
  • 408 Mio tons of freight in 2007 resp. 10.8 Mio Twenty Feet-Equivalent-Units per year
  • 30.000 to 40.000 cars per day
  • 160.000km of pipelines, 1.500km of them underground to the Ruhrgebiet in Germany and France
  • 24 km of underground conveyor belts transporting coal directly to the power stations
  • Trailers with a capacity of five 40 ft or ten 20 ft containers

After the luncheon in the Restaurant "Courzand" in Heijplaat, nicely decorated with all kinds of maritime items, the group returned to Brussels, impressed by the size and level of  innovation Europe's largest port.