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An intelligent perspective on future developments

The partnership between the Port of Rotterdam Authority and Next Generation Infrastructures (NGI) was initiated in September 2010. Until 2015, the knowledge of NGI will be utilised for the development and realisation of Maasvlakte 2 in a variety of projects. International scientists are working together under the aegis of the Next Generation Infrastructures research institute to develop ideas about the infrastructure of the future.

Knowledge institutions, private sector parties and government organisations from various countries collaborate within NGI on the development of theories, models and instruments aimed at optimising the functioning of infrastructures - both today and in the future. To this end, scientists from a range of disciplines work together with policy-makers, supervisory authorities, managers, investors, designers, contractors and operators.

Although the focus is on the future, the collaborators do not attempt to predict what lies in store. They do work to provide insight into the future consequences of different decisions. This leads to the development of a large number of future scenarios.

Predict or study

In many cases, researchers study new developments by using them as input in a simplified model. NGO does exactly the opposite. The models are made as complicated as possible. In this simulation of reality, all conceivable circumstances that could present themselves are tested. A computer model calculates the consequences of the developments. This makes it clear, for instance, what the impact will be on the new port if carbon emissions become very expensive. But also if coal and oil may no longer be used as fuel. The computer programme shows what kinds of effects such measures could have.

The use of this programme is particularly interesting for Maasvlakte 2. At present, the port expansion is still an open space where the future of the coming century will be taking shape. The behaviour of companies that will possibly be setting up in the new port area is simulated in a digital model. In combination with the instruments that the Port Authority has at its disposal, such as the structuring of the area, the rates for the different sites and the conditions that the Port Authority can set for its tenants, this provides a unique perspective on the future. It gives a tangible idea of the impact of such measures and lends the Port Authority an insight into its options in the event of specific developments.

Developments

A wide variety of developments could occur. The government can draw up new regulations or change existing regulations. But market trends could also result in changes. Take the interest in biofuel, for example. What will happen if the required infrastructure is constructed for these fuels and clients from this sector are attracted to the area, but the market demand disappears in ten years' time? The NGI model does not predict which developments will take place, but it does predict what the consequences will be of conceivable scenarios.

NGI then takes it one step further. By providing an answer as to how you can reduce risks. If the interest in biofuel wanes, for example, it is undesirable that all the pipelines and installations become useless as a result. NGI consequently tries to come up with intelligent solutions for such developments. By offering the concept of syngas production as a raw material and a source of energy for all the processes in the port. This gas can be produced from crude oil, but also from natural gas, coal or biofuel. This way, the port becomes less dependent on developments in the energy market. NGI can not only develop the technical and organisational solutions for this, but also clarify which follow-up steps need to be taken to get there. It is important to calculate the various options in advance. What are you required to do - or refrain from doing - to ensure that in 20 years' time, Maasvlakte 2 will function well in every conceivable scenario?

Sustainability

NGI also concerns itself with the ongoing development of sustainability. In the area of transport within the new port, for instance - e.g. containers that are transferred between companies. This goes beyond logistics: vehicles, for example, or tunnels, conveyor belts, monorail. Indeed, it also touches on organisation. What measures can you take to reduce the actual transport between the terminals? One thing you could examine is how you could locate companies that intend to exchange products closer together. This involves challenges that arise from the companies' different requirements. The need to be located near deep water, for example. In this case, do you locate the companies close together on relatively expensive land because they exchange a lot of goods? Or do you accept a greater distance between the two and opt for an environmentally friendly transport system? Once again, NGI does not dictate the decisions, but maps out the options and consequences.

The more companies that associate themselves with this process, the more valuable it becomes. Clients' ideas and insights increase the value of the NGI projects. Furthermore, these companies are also required to make choices for the future. The more coordination there is, the greater the chance of success.

Plans, ideas and assignments

  • The building of a simulation programme for the future of Maasvlakte 2: the 'crystal ball'.
  • Strategies for energy decisions: biofuel, fossil fuels, wind, etc.
  • Company clusters: which clusters yield which advantages, what are the best locations, what facilities are required and how can you manage them?
  • Environmental space: what opportunities are there to optimally utilise the available environmental space?
  • Environmental regulations: how do permit systems influence the use of each other's residual products?
  • Modes of transport: what kind of consequences will the shift from road transport to rail and water have?
  • Transport within the port: what is required for this transport and how can you influence its size?
  • Own syngas for the port: can this be arranged, what are the consequences and how do you get there?