By Stas Margaronis, AJOT In 2008 the Port of Rotterdam began its latest expansion project, Maasvlakte 2. Estimated to cost over $3 billion, the new maritime facility is expected to begin operations in 2013 and help Rotterdam more than triple its container handling to 38 million teus by 2035. Port says business is picking in 2010, according to Hans Smits, Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO: “The growth sectors of the past six months were containers and iron ore, and also mineral oil products in the first quarter. Rotterdam is benefiting greatly from the upturn in world trade, especially that involving China and Germany. Total throughput is now more or less back to the 2008 level. In the second half of the year, the growth in throughput tends to decline. For the year as a whole, the increase is expected to be in the region of 10%. It will be exciting to see whether or not the port can make up for the losses of 2009 in just one year”. Rotterdam’s success is a function of constant investment in upgrading facilities in collaboration with private operators such as Europe Combined Terminals (ECT). Rotterdam’s success in limiting the trucking of containers onto highways is reflected by statistics showing that 30% of ocean containers that enter the port by water leave the port by water. Of the remaining 70% of containers, 56% leave the port by truck, 11% leave by rail and 33% leave by inland waterway vessels. This minimizes the number of car and truck moves to the port areas reducing the number of cars and trucks on the A-15 motorway, according to port officials. In the United States, the U.S. Department of Transportation is just beginning to support more intermodal transportation by water. It recently funded a new marine highway service to shift truckloads onto a tug barge on the Sacramento River between the ports of Oakland and Stockton, California. Minco van Heezen, Port of Rotterdam press officer escorted a group of journalists to the port’s North Sea viewing spot, Futureland, which offers a panoramic view of an armada of dredging vessels spraying seabed sand onto what will become a 4,000 acres for handling container ships and chemical tankers. Van Heezen reports: “All aspects of the construction of Maasvlakte 2 are on schedule.…. The last gap in the sea defences will be sealed in July 2012, after which a road and a railway will be built along the outside edge of Maasvlakte 2. When these are completed, a passage will be made ….. to make Maasvlakte 2 accessible for ships from the existing Maasvlakte. In 2013, the first container vessel will be able to moor at the quay.” PUMA (Project Organization for the Expansion of the Maasvlakte) is the over-all building contractor and a joint venture between the Dutch dredging and marine contractors Boskalis and Van Oord, which spent more than two years on the design, work that involved developing and introducing various design innovations related to the sea defenses, according to the Van Oord website. The port’s latest progress report says that virtually the whole of the new coastline has been sprayed on. For as long as possible, a gap will be kept open in the new sea defences so that the dredgers have free access to the area. On average, approximately eight of Boskalis and Van Oord’s trailing suction hopper dredgers are in operation for the project “ Earlier this month, eleven trailing suction hopper dredgers applied 3.8 million m3 of sand in the area, in the space of one week: a new world record.” Rotterdam successfully courted support from environmentalist for the huge new project by allocating 1,500 acres for a new nature reserve. Van Heezen says that environmental impacts of the project a top priority. An example is protecting the quality of the adjoining seabed during construction: “Over the past few months, measurements have been carried out on a regular basis on the amount of silt in the North Sea and the possible impact of this on nature. After all, wit