The port of Rotterdam sets direction for sustainability

07. 02. 2024

The port of Rotterdam is the largest deep-sea port in Europe and one of the ten largest seaports in the world. It is also of central importance to the ÖBB Rail Cargo Group (RCG) as an intermodal hub with connections to the economic regions of Western and Central Europe.

The port area extends over 12,500 hectares and is 40 km long - an enormous expanse that stretches from Rotterdam city centre to the North Sea near Hoek van Holland. Connected to the port is the petrochemical industrial area, which is important for the region and Europe, making the port one of the most important energy hubs for north-west Europe. It is home to four refineries and various companies in the oil and chemical industry. Around 193,000 people are employed directly or indirectly with the harbour on the North Sea. Its strategically favourable location in the Rhine-Meuse river delta has favoured its development since the 19th century. Until 20 years ago, Rotterdam was even the largest harbour in the world. From 2004 onwards, it was gradually replaced by Asian ports such as Singapore and Shanghai. Its great importance for Europe is still undisputed. It is not for nothing that people say: "If the port of Rotterdam is doing well, the European economy is doing well." The added value for the Rotterdam-Rhine Estuary seaport region alone is estimated at 30.6 billion euros - this is around 3.2 % of the Dutch gross domestic product (GDP). If you include all the companies that depend on the port, the overall economic significance for the Netherlands is as much as 60 billion euros.

Rotterdam - Gateway to the world

Rotterdam is the gateway to the world, connecting over 1,000 international deep-sea ports. Over 400 international container rail services run to and from the port of Rotterdam every week. Block trains with dry and wet bulk cargo and general cargo trains are also handled here. In 2022, a total turnover of 826 million euros was generated and 467 million tonnes of goods were handled. Around 15 million containers were transhipped by rail. The port also plays an important role for RCG: it is the central hub between ship, rail and truck and therefore a crucial connection to the economic regions in Western and Central Europe for intermodal transport.

RCG offers direct connection to Rotterdam

At the beginning of the year, RCG optimised its TransFER Linz-Wels-Rotterdam connection and now offers an attractive direct connection with a fixed timetable between Austria, Germany and the Netherlands (TransFER Linz-Duisburg-Rotterdam). The route is operated four times a week and offers numerous transport options, from classic containers to swap bodies and soon also cranable trailers. The transport of dangerous goods (RID) is also possible on the entire route. In addition, the new TransFER can be used within Rotterdam for transfers to all maritime and continental terminals in the industrial and port areas of Maasvlakte and Waalhaven, as well as to Antwerp and Zeebrugge.

On the road to zero emissions

By 2050, the port is to become completely climate-neutral and produce no emissions. Various measures are being implemented to achieve this goal. At the centre of the strategy is the conversion to the largest hydrogen hub in Europe. According to forecasts, this fuel will increase significantly in the future and represents a decisive milestone in the fight against the climate crisis.
Rotterdam is currently the world's most important transshipment centre for liquid bulk. Supertankers ship ethanol from Brazil to Sweden via Rotterdam, and palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia to the European food industry. Crude oil and petroleum are transported via pipelines to the Ruhr area and Antwerp. What remains is processed into fuels and chemicals in the port's petrochemical industrial area. This involves enormous amounts of energy. Every year, 8,800 petajoules (PJ) of energy are transported to and from here by sea-going vessels, which corresponds to almost three times the energy requirements of the Netherlands and 13 % of the energy requirements in the EU.
The conversion will require investments in the millions or billions by the port and the companies and refineries located there. The investment decision for Europe’s largest green hydrogen plant in cooperation with Shell has already been taken and is scheduled to be operational in 2025.

Partnerships are crucial

In order to achieve the ambitious zero-emissions target, the port is endeavouring to cooperate with partners in all areas. In addition to the transport of hydrogen via pipelines, environmentally friendly transport by rail will also play an important role. The RCG is involved in the development of prototypes for transport containers. Overall, the port of Rotterdam wants to increase the transport of goods by rail to between 40 and 61 million tonnes within ten years. The newly introduced TransFER connection contributes to this and at the same time marks a further step towards realising our own goal: Together with the leading European rail freight companies, to shift 30 % of the freight volume to environmentally friendly rail by 2030.

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