Rotterdam Says Access Road Funding Vital

Rotterdam Says Access Road Funding Vital

Rotterdam risks losing its lead as Europe’s biggest container port over Antwerp and Hamburg without a multi-billion dollar investment to improve congested access roads, the head of the port warned.

According to Hans Smits, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the Dutch government should consider charging for the use of highways and tunnels to the port and use the proceeds to accelerate infrastructure projects.

“Rotterdam’s inaccessibility is its Achilles heel,” Smits said in an interview with Bloomberg.

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“Much needs to be done, but the government budget is insufficient. This applies all over Europe – governments are cutting deficits while infrastructure needs extra investment,” Smits said.

Smits said Rotterdam is talking with inland ports, including Duisburg, about setting up terminals where containers can be transferred from trucks to barges and trains, and thereby avoid the congested Dutch highway network.

The talks are aimed at greater use of the Rhine and Meuse rivers, which have “seven times more capacity than is currently used,” Smits said.

Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Antwerp are reported to be mulling a joint bid for the German government’s 33 percent stake in Duisburg, the world’s biggest inland port, which handled 2.25 million 20-foot equivalent units in 2010. Total cargo throughput totaled 28 million metric tons.

Rotterdam is currently building an 8.5 million TEUs-a-year container hub on land reclaimed from the North Sea. Europe’s biggest container project, which will come on stream in 2013, is designed to keep pace with fast growing traffic, particularly with China.

But the project could be undermined by under investment in highways, according to Smits.

Rotterdam handled a record 11. 4 million TEUs in 2010 and total throughput also hit an all time high of 430 million metric tons.

Antwerp handled 8.48 million TEUs, followed by Hamburg with 7.9 million TEUs.

--Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.