The strong position of the Dutch seaports can no longer be taken for granted due to ‘challenges’ such as the climate and energy transition, the Brexit and increasing protectionism. That is what Dutch Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen says in a Parliamentary letter accompanying the draft Port Memorandum 2020-2030.
The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management sent the memorandum (Havennota 2020-2030) to parliament on Monday 30 March.
Consequences of corona crisis not included
It was completed before the coronary crisis struck. This justifies the question to what extent the note is still relevant in the post-Covid-19 era. The Minister says ‘that the economic damage caused by the pandemic cannot yet be sufficiently determined’, although it is clear that the measures taken worldwide will have repercussions on the demand for maritime transport and transshipment in ports.
It is intended that the consequences of the corona crisis will be included in the final memorandum. It is unclear when this will be ready.
Apart from that, according to Van Nieuwenhuizen, ‘cooperation’ is necessary to maintain the leading position of the Dutch ports in Europe and the world. Together with the port authorities, she sees the seaports ‘growing towards an integrated system of cooperating port companies’.
To stimulate this development, ‘an innovation and/or transition scheme for seaports could be envisaged, to stimulate innovative port technology in the transition to a digital and sustainable port economy, just as in Germany,’ according to the minister.
Five port areas
The memorandum limits the number of port areas eligible for this to five: Rotterdam, Moerdijk, Amsterdam/North Sea Canal area, Eemshaven/Delfzijl and North Sea Port (Vlissingen/Terneuzen).
Incidentally, the starting point is that the Dutch port companies remain in public hands. This in order to ‘maintain sufficient control and direction of port management to safeguard the vital social and economic interests of the ports for the Netherlands’.
Another more or less concrete commitment made by van Nieuwenhuizen is to ‘explore’ a contribution to the development of NextLogic. After years of preparation, this planning tool for the handling of container barges in the port of Rotterdam is finally ready for the test phase, which should start soon. According to Van Nieuwenhuizen, NextLogic can ‘further reduce container congestion in the container barge chain.’
She also writes, with a sense of understatement, that the climate and energy transition will ensure that goods flows will in any case change ‘and possibly become less’. In any case, this has a major impact on the functioning of the seaports and the hinterland network.
Van Nieuwenhuizen also says that the importance of logistics and digitisation will increase further: ‘They contribute to the efficiency, quality and reliability of port processes and thus to the competitiveness and growth of trade. The downside is that it can be accompanied by forms of cybercrime and can lead to a decline in traditional (port) employment’.
This article first appeared (in Dutch) on Nieuwsblad Transport, a sister publication of SWZ|Maritime.