Established during the 1960s in the Rhine and Meuse rivers’ estuary, the Port of Moerdijk is developed and administered by the Moerdijk Port Authority, a semi-governmental organisation. Location3 spoke with Ferdinand van den Oever, the Port Authority’s CEO, about Moerdijk today and what to expect for its future development.
Q: A port is about more than just loading and unloading ships. Can you briefly describe the other activities going on there?
With over 2,600 hectares and more than 400 companies, the port site and industrial estate are the largest employers in the Province of Brabant and the fourth sea port of the Netherlands. With no less than four modes of transport – road, water, pipeline, and rail – at their disposal, these companies can reach the entire world from Moerdijk. With around 2,000 sea vessels and nearly 12,000 inland vessels passing here every year and more than 1 million square metres of transhipment and premium storage facilities, it’s a major hub.
Many companies based at Moerdijk form an essential link, usually as a starting or ending point, in their own specific value chains. The port area provides 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, ranging from work in large chemical companies to logistics providers and companies in manufacturing. The largest is Shell Moerdijk, but there are many more companies active at the port site and industrial estate that play key roles in the commodities transition.
Q: Moerdijk is located rather far inland for a seaport. Does that give the port unique advantages?
In fact, the Port of Moerdijk is the most inland-located seaport within the Netherlands. It is right in the heart of the Flemish–Dutch Delta and strategically located between the main ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. It’s in a key location for receiving goods from around the world and is an important hub for transportation to and from the European hinterland. Moerdijk is located within three major European freight corridors. The terrain is perfectly accessible via a multi-modal network. Goods, raw materials, and semi-finished products arrive via ship, train, lorry or pipeline and continue on from Moerdijk, bundled or processed, via inland waterway, sea or land. Moerdijk is a bridge to Europe.
Due to its strategic location, the Port of Moerdijk is a pre-eminent logistical hotspot. Plenty of room is being devoted to growing logistics activities at the TradePark and Distriboulevard areas, and the new Logistics Park is being developed to add even more room. It is being designed especially for companies that add value to raw materials and goods, for so-called value-added logistics.
Q: Does Moerdijk’s geographic position between the nearby ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp create mutual benefits or are all the ports just competitive rivals?
Moerdijk does not have the congestion problems experienced by the main ports nearby. From Moerdijk, you are easily on your way to your final destination without traffic jams or congestion. The fast turnaround times at the port itself also make this possible. There are no long waiting times at the quay in Moerdijk. Handling is fast and takes place at the terminals. Since Moerdijk is the extended gate for the main ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, the rest of the world is also within reach. Continued travel without the need for documents and without an administrative fuss put you easily on your way to the European hinterland as well as global markets.
In that sense, we complement the two large main ports that, in contrast to Moerdijk, mainly focus on deep-sea activities. Also, our fine chemical cluster makes us complementary to, rather than competitive with, other ports.
But when it comes to our great and swift shortsea connections, for instance with the United Kingdom, but also with other European destinations, we are definitely competitive!
Q: In 2014, the Port Authority published its Strategy 2030. Today, about at the half-way point to 2030, how is Moerdijk progressing toward the Strategy’s goals? In what areas does implementation need to catch up?
In 2020, together with our supervisory board and shareholders, we conducted a new corporate strategy for 2021–2025. This Corporate Strategy reflects our aims and objectives for the next years.
The objectives of Strategy 2030 are highly ambitious and will still be our goals. We made significant progress in a number of areas. But there is still a lot of ground to be covered, for instance with regard to making industry, and the chemical industry in particular, more sustainable. This doesn’t apply only to the Port of Moerdijk. Many substantial investments will be required, and also the laws and regulations are not always so co‑operative when it comes to actually making industry circular.
Meanwhile, we’ve also had a lot of success. For instance, we had investments and significant growth in terms of rail development. Also, reinforcement of the Moerdijk hub with regard to shortsea can be considered a success. The many daily sailings to different destinations in the UK and other European ports are examples of this.
Our principle is that all developments should be aligned with the needs of people and the planet. We invest a lot in our surroundings and the environment, which is a never-ending task.
Q: It’s interesting that the Port of Moerdijk is split into six so-called “thematic parkland areas”. It sounds like Disneyland! But seriously, please explain what that’s all about.
Yes, the Port of Moerdijk is divided into six thematic parks, each with its own unique character. Similar companies are clustered together, enabling them to maximise their use of the site and their co‑operation in terms of safety, security, and sustainability. Utility-sharing, which means using each other’s residual substances, is made attractive and practically feasible by this clustering.
Industrial Park Moerdijk is a major park. It includes chemical and industrial companies in the heaviest environmental categories, such as Shell Nederland Chemie. Here there is processing of raw materials and residual substances, and it includes users of the pipeline.
Then there’s Ecopark, where there are companies with high sustainability potential, such as recycling or energy-related companies. The focus here is on sustainability and ecological entrepreneurship.
Third is Seaport, and here are companies with water-related activities, such as storage and handling of general cargo, bulk and containers, as well as nautical service companies for shipping and modern transhipment terminals for the transport of goods to companies located further back from shore.
The fourth park consists of Distriboulevard and TradePark. Here are mainly logistics companies.
Next is Service Point, an assortment of service companies and organisations to support other companies. Examples include Customs, the Netherlands Military Constabulary, the Port Authority, Fire Department, and the Port Health Centre.
And finally there is our new Logistics Park Moerdijk. This will be a high-quality business park with an innovative, sustainable character. In addition to storage and distribution, the focus is on value-added logistics. That means adding value by, for example, packaging, assembly, and repair. The park is multimodal, easily-accessible, and with direct connections to port facilities and the railway network.
Q: Sustainability is an essential part of doing business today, but being sustainable must be particularly challenging within a vulnerable environment like Moerdijk’s? How is the Port Authority managing all these difficult issues?
Sustainability is a common thread weaving through management of the Moerdijk Port Authority, as well as the new developments in the port. Everything is aimed at making the port more sustainable and ensuring it becomes the most sustainable port in the Dutch–Flemish Delta by 2030. In the 2030 Port Strategy for Moerdijk, the concept of sustainability is one of the three guiding principles.
Sustainable operations aimed at reducing emissions of hazardous substances and the use of primary raw materials and energy are already high on our agenda. Growth, strengthening of the port’s competitiveness, and increasing employment opportunities go hand-in-hand with excellence in managing space and natural areas, as well as ensuring a reduction in environmental pressures on local residents.
In 2030, Port of Moerdijk will be a port and industrial complex where sustainability is internalised as a matter of course within all its operations. It should be an energy-neutral complex and with a focus on the greening of existing chemical and processing industries. Sustainable transport via rail, water and pipelines will be expanded, and there will be sustainable links between companies.
Moerdijk also participates in EcoPorts, a network of ports and port professionals in Europe exchanging knowledge and experience on environmental issues. Ships with a Green Award certificate are extra clean and safe, and they receive a discount on tariffs to encourage more sustainable shipping practices. We are also working in accordance with the Port Environmental Review System (PERS), a European port-specific methodology to independently assess environmental performance.
Q: The Port Authority will soon need to begin planning for what happens after 2030. Is the port approaching its maximum expanse and capacity?
The Moerdijk Port Authority is a proud organisation that is working on the future of the unique business environment of the port site and Moerdijk industrial estate. In developing Logistics Park Moerdijk over the next few years, we will be reinforcing the logistics position and profile of the port.
The main prerequisite for our success as a port operator is the excellent collective performance of our business community. These companies, obviously including ourselves, are at the forefront in contributing to a sustainable and future-proof earning capacity and to solutions for numerous societal challenges. The companies based on our premises are joining forces more than they used to. Stakeholders of the port site and industrial estate are interacting and searching for opportunities to synergise.
Another critical success factor is that we, as the Port of Moerdijk, must continue responding to trends in a smart and flexible manner in order to improve our competitive position. Trends that are of paramount importance for us include the circular economy and energy transition; digitalisation and robotisation, including digital resilience; the deceleration of global trade and the global economy and accompanying shifts in political power; geographical repositioning, including regionalisation and near-shoring or reshoring; and consolidation and integration of value chains.
We will remain focused on these trends, because they are important with respect to future development of the port industry and of our surrounding business community.