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A Brief Guide to the Port

A Brief Guide to the Port
By Janna Bystrykh, Ekaterina Golovatyuk -

Rotterdam, named by the New York Times as one of the places to visit in 2014, is the second largest city of the Netherlands and Europe’s biggest port. Today the port is practically not visible from within the city, which is now mostly recognized by visitors for its new skyline. The port itself stretches 42 km from Rotterdam city centre to the North Sea, where ships of unrestricted size arrive unnoticed. But although harbor and city may seem separate entities, they nonetheless are part of a single system in constant evolution. 

Once a fishing village on the banks of the river Rotte, the city of Rotterdam continued throughout its history to negotiate and reinvent its relationship with the river and its activity as a port. By 1600 the city had become a major mercantile hub, with ships mooring in the heart of the city. 

During the 19th century Rotterdam extended rapidly across the south bank of the River Maas, prompted by the opening of the New Waterway (1872), which in turn boosted the port’s capacity. Growth was strategically supported by the expansion of the villages Charlois and Katendrecht.

Between 1920 - 1940 the port developed westwards on both banks of the river. Following the annexation of the village of Delfshaven in 1886, Merwehaven (a cargo port) was created on the north bank, while Waalhaven (a transshipment port), and the first and second petroleum harbors were constructed on the south bank. In parallel, the city supported the development of Spangen, a new neighborhood bordering the Merwehaven, and RDM, a port company, developed the garden-village of Heijplaat on the south bank for its employees. 

During post WWII reconstruction, Rotterdam flourished, expanding to include Eemshaven (a container terminal) and the Botlek (petrochemical) areas, pushing the boundary of the city further west. 

With the introduction of mammoth tankers and the blockade of the...

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