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Port of Rotterdam to Extend Maasvlakte Terminal

The Port of Rotterdam is planning a 2000-hectare land reclamation project, named the Maasvlakte 2, an extension of the existing Maasvlakte terminal. The new land will provide 1000 hectares of surface area suitable for building container terminals and related handling facilities.

The land reclamation will require 300 million cubic meters of dredged sand, available nearby in the North Sea.

Contract tenders for the work will be advertised starting the first quarter of 2005.

"It's a massive and technically challenging project. This gives scope for plenty of optimization in terms of design and execution. We expect this of the market", said Ronald Paul, the director of the port's Project Organization Maasvlakte 2.

Under pressure from the increasing flow of goods from the Far East, preparations for the project are moving forward vigorously. Maasvlakte 2 will be built in the North Sea at a cost of more than € 2.5 billion (US$ 3.2 billion). The Port of Rotterdam anticipates that one or more parties will be contracted to construct the seawall and spray on the sand by the end of 2005.

The Maasvlakte 2 site is five to 25 meters under water. Research into the configuration of the new land resulted in a design that is easy to develop, has the least possible impact on the Dutch coast, and involves the lowest possible maintenance costs for the seawall. Of prime consideration in the design were the impact of sea currents, and thus on the nautical safety and accessibility of the new port zone. A decision was made not to create a new harbor entrance. Ships will be sailing to the new port area via the extended 600-meter-wide Yangtzehaven.

The construction work will be divided into three parts: four kilometers of hard seawall, eight kilometers of soft seawall and the body of sand between the new seawall and the existing seawall.

"The hard seawall is the most interesting part of the project, in technical terms", said Ronald Paul. "This dike will be built on the northwest side and its job is to protect the land reclamation from the waves that buffet our coast from that corner, especially in the fall and winter. The traditional way of building such a seawall is with concrete elements or rubble weighing between three and 12 tons. But we can do things differently here, for instance by using caissons. Everything's possible so long as it's functional", according to Paul.

It is also important that the work not impact on either the current along the Dutch coast or the direct access to the port of Rotterdam. The port must be easily accessible at all times. Computer simulations and research based on a scale model could form part of the tender.

On the southwest side of the area it was decided to create a soft seawall in the form of sprayed sand. The swell and current have less impact on the coastline here. The space between the new seawall and the existing port area will be filled using this method.

"We don't know yet at what pace. Maybe phased, but perhaps in one go so that it will be there in 2010. That depends on the demand from our clients and the offers we get from market parties. Here too, we really want to give the market the space to come up with creative ideas," said Paul.

The Port of Rotterdam therefore, plans to incorporate a long consultation period into the tendering procedure.

"We want to put the project on the market early in 2005, and are thinking of a consultation phase of around five months. Parties will then have time to develop creative proposals and we to see if they meet our criteria. We want to have the tenders in after the summer. Then we plan to conduct some brief and intensive negotiations and have contracted one or more parties by the end of 2005. The actual work must start mid-2006, said Paul.

"We are thinking of inviting tenders for three elements: the hard seawall, the soft seawall and the body of sand. Preferably we'd like to grant them together, but not necessarily. We expect some innovative proposals particularly for the hard seawall. We anticipate that these will come mainly from offshore companies and general contractors. The sand is mainly a job for the dredging firms", said Paul. "But it is such a big job that I hope not only Dutch and Belgian firms will be interested. At all events, we'll post the most important information in English on our website. And we also want to keep the option open of a major terminal operator taking the lead in the construction. After all, Maasvlakte 2 is a unique location: right on the sea, quay walls as deep as the client wants and a hinterland of 350 million Europeans," he said.

The project will possibly be executed in two phases, with two thirds of the project realized in the first phase, and the rest sometime later. The Dutch State wants to have an interim evaluation point, considering the scale of the investment and the impact on nature. If economic growth was disappointing, a large port zone would not then stay idle for a long time and the impact on nature would be minimized.

"But", says Paul, "considering the growth in the container sector, we are sooner looking for ways of speeding up construction. We are really interested in anything that can speed things up. Our experience and intuition tell us that we can really benefit from phasing the work. The contractor must then make sure that current, morphology and costs are optimally coordinated."

Once the seawall for Maasvlakte 2 is in place, roads and railway lines will be built to provide access to the existing terminals on the northern side of the existing Maasvlakte. The existing seawall will then be extended so that the new harbor basin is accessible. This work must also be meticulously coordinated.

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