The port of Rotterdam

How Rotterdam became a port city

Maritime Museum Rotterdam

Sjouwers (1920) by Marius Johannes RichterMaritime Museum Rotterdam

The largest port of Europe

For ages, the port of Rotterdam was one of the main ports of Holland. The international breakthrough came in the last quarter of the 19th century, after the construction of the 'Nieuwe Waterweg' (New Waterway) was finished. Thanks to the perfect connections with the rest of Europe via the river Rhine, the Rotterdam port grew to be the biggest in the world in the 1960's of the last century. Nowadays, Rotterdam is still by far the largest port of Europe.

Atlas Rotterdam (1694) by Johannes de Vou en Romeyn de HoogheMaritime Museum Rotterdam

A map of the city

In 1690, the Rotterdam city council commissioned painter and engraver
Johannes de Vou and graphic artist Romeyn de Hooghe to develop and
produce a map of the Rotterdam city.

Rotterdam had become the second important Dutch city, after Amsterdam. The new map was meant to be the crown on this position and had to underline the importance of the city and its port. The original map consisted of over forty separate parts that were combined to one big map measuring 166 x 234 cm.

The actual map was the central part. To the left and the right of it there were pictures of prominent buildings in the city. On top you saw the coats of arms of prominent Rotterdam families.

At the bottom of the map an overview of the cities waterfront - seen from the south - was shown.

Feesttent (1866) by J.F. BakkerMaritime Museum Rotterdam

A important step

On 31sth of October 1866, the construction of the 'Nieuwe Waterweg' (New Waterway) started. This was a canal connecting the Rotterdam harbour directly to the North Sea.  The old entrance from the sea was no longer suitable for the ships, that became larger and larger. Founder was the young civil engineer Pieter Caland.

At first, there were some troubles, but longer piers and a new type of dredger made the Nieuwe Waterweg a succes. Today, over 15.000 ships a year pass it on their way to the Rotterdam harbour.

Pilot schooner (1895) by O.A. van Repelaer van SpijkenisseMaritime Museum Rotterdam

The port ships

This schooner type ship was used by the Dutch pilot service for almost half a century. In the west part of Holland these almost 25 metre long ships were replaced by steamboats around 1900, but in the north part of Holland these ships were in service until the late twenties. In those last period maintenance was poor. The last pilot schooner and its complete crew of fourteen was lost at sea in 1925.

Rhine tugboat 'Utgard', Unknown, 1913, From the collection of: Maritime Museum Rotterdam
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This tugboat was a true Hercules in its time, that could tow a maximum of six inland barges upstream the Rhine river! This way, it was possible to transport over 6.000 tonnes of cargo at one time.

Coal bunker machine (1925) by UnkownMaritime Museum Rotterdam

Transshipment of coal was - and still is - big business in the Rotterdam port. One part of this business was the import of German coal to be used as fuel for steam driven ships. Leading in this business in Rotterdam was the so called 'Steenkolen Handels Vereniging' (to be translated into 'Coal Trading Company') which had the monopoly of trading German coal. To lower the costs of labour needed for the transshipment of coal, the company invested in this coal bunker machine. It was especially designed to provide seagoing steamships with a large amount of coal in the shortest possible time. The machine, called 'Pluto', was able to transfer 250 tonnes of coal per hour.

Figee Havenkraan (1928) by J. LagendijkMaritime Museum Rotterdam

Other port material

In 1961, crane number '100' was delivered for the Rotterdam port and a contract for 41 cranes in the years to follow was signed. But it was also the expansion of the port that finally would lead to Figees demise. That is because Figee was not able to construct special container cranes that were asked for form the second half of the sixties. In 2005, the remains of the company went bankrupt. The name 'Figee' however was saved. Today it lives on in the 'Kenz-Figee' company. An international company that specializes in the construction of cranes especially for the offshore industry. The model you see here is a prize-winning model in a national model building contest in 1928. It illustrates one of the many changes that the Rotterdam port has gone through in the past decades.

Credits: Story

Maritime Museum Rotterdam

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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