The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment is expanding the Maasgeul to prevent waiting times for ships entering the port of Rotterdam. This navigation channel to the North Sea is the access route for sea-going ships that have a draft of more than 14.3 metres. More and more of these ships come to Rotterdam because of the increase in scale and because the load factor of sea-going ships continues to grow.
The Maasgeul is 6 miles long and currently 500 to 600 metres wide. It is being widened by another 240 metres so that by the summer of 2012, large sea-going ships will be able to pass each other. Harbour master René de Vries announced this during the presentation of the nautical annual figures for 2011. The lower number of ships – 33,681 sea-going ships compared with 34,404 in 2010 – with an increase in throughput (from 430 to 435 million tonnes) points to that increase in scale and more heavily laden container ships.
The harbour master also explained that last year’s bad weather – there was significantly more wind and storm than in 2010 – had an adverse effect on the nautical figures of the port of Rotterdam. The number of serious accidents (16 compared to 15 in 2010) remained close to the same, but there was more bodywork damage (131 compared to 116). The harbour master qualified the figures: ‘If you are talking about 16 accidents for close on one million ship movements, then the port is still extremely safe.’
Nautical Efficiency Index
The average turnaround time of ships remained the same, with a reduction by one minute to 4.36 hours. The harbour master no longer wants to use this time as the method of assessing the work of the nautical service providers. There are so many other, uncontrollable factors that determine this time. The Port Authority is now working on the Nautical Efficiency Index, a standard for international shipping that determines whether the traffic process runs in accordance with the set schedule.
During the meeting, De Vries made a case for more national and international legislation for the use of LNG as a fuel for both sea-going ships and inland shipping. ‘Research shows that LNG provides an opportunity to make inland shipping and ocean shipping more sustainable with financial gains.’