Ocean-going vessels, which are becoming bigger and bigger every year, need to be able to safely and smoothly access the ports of Maasvlakte 2 under virtually all weather conditions. To what extent does this factor determine the design? But also, how wide, deep and long should the fairways and port basins be? Which requirements do the quay walls need to satisfy to enable the efficient loading and unloading of cargo? The Master Plan also provides an answer to these questions.
The approach channel (Eurogeul and Maasgeul) can be navigated by vessels with a draught up to 22.5 m. With a draught of 17.4 m and deeper, ships are limited to certain fairways and are obliged to use the route leading past the extra deep Eurogeul and Maasgeul fairways. Ocean-going vessels entering Maasvlakte 2 will make a 180° bend from the Maasgeul and proceed via the Beerkanaal in the direction of the Yangtzehaven. The Yangtzehaven will be extended. By cutting through the seawall of the existing Maasvlakte, Maasvlakte 2 will be made accessible for shipping traffic.
The design includes certain choices regarding the development of Maasvlakte 2. Characteristic maritime features, such as the width of the fairways, the orientation and width of the port basins and the location and dimensions of the turning basins (areas where the navigation channel has been widened so that ships can turn and pass one another) were determined in this fashion. An important requirement in this context was to create sufficient quay length in relation to the port sites that needed to be developed.
Maasvlakte 2 will considerably expand the total volume of navigable water in the Rotterdam port. Besides a solid design for these fairways and port basins, the new area also requires supporting maritime facilities. The staff of the Port Authority's Vessel Traffic Services require information about the position and the characteristics of the shipping traffic present in the area. The primary information is obtained via radar. The existing outer radar needs to be relocated to the new seawall and installed on a 70-m tall mast. The ships furthermore need visual aids to help them determine their current position. That is why all fairways and ports will be fitted with lights that indicate the axis of the navigation channel. Buoys will indicate where the fairway is lined by a hilly bank. Port entrances and low-visibility objects will also be fitted with lighting. To determine the current water and weather conditions, the Port Authority will record, among other things, data relating to the water level, the wind, the visibility and the waves and process these data on behalf of the Vessel Traffic Services and the pilot services.
Maritime operations require supporting vessels. Research has been conducted into the various types of service providers and the most suitable location for them in the new area.
The pilot services will keep their centrally located berths in the Pistoolhaven on the existing Maasvlakte, which was renovated in 2007. The various towing services will be accommodated in the Yangtzehaven (south side). This is also in the heart of their work area. In addition, they will be offered a waiting area in a Maasvlakte 2 service port, the Prinses Margriethaven. Rowers who support the mooring and unmooring of ocean-going ships, customs vessels, police boats and the port service will also be assigned berths in this port. Inland shipping will be assigned 20 waiting berths. Furthermore, in due time, facilities will be realised for waiting inland vessels across a 2-km stretch in the existing Maasvlakte, on the south side of the Yangtzehaven.
Interventions in the existing port
Maritime research has yielded a number of points of attention for shipping traffic moving from the Maas Entrance to the Yangtzehaven. The bend around the Papegaaienbek, for example, needs to be widened: particularly for ships with a length of 400 m this is a tricky bend. By removing part of the Kop van de Beer, the bend can be widened by some 125 m. With this adaptation, the manoeuvre can be completed with a more or less constant turning speed. Depending on the intensity of the ocean-going shipping traffic, this intervention is expected to be made around 2020/2025. The research also showed that the existing MOT-2 quay (Maasvlakte Oil Terminal) needed to be relocated, since it blocks the future navigation channel. After it was heavily damaged by a ship that had been turned adrift in the spring storm of 2007, this quay was moved at an accelerated rate in 2008. And finally, it was concluded that in due time (2020/2025), the existing northern quay of DFDS Torline on the south-eastern side of the Yangtzehaven will need to be turned slightly to the south.
The extended Yangtzehaven serves as Maasvlakte 2's port entrance. In the first phase, from 2013 to around 2020, the very largest vessels will not be able to pass one another under all wind conditions. To postpone investments, the width on the waterline will still be limited. The limited intensity of the shipping traffic will make this acceptable. When the shipping times and the waiting times for the largest vessels increase, the Yangtzehaven will be widened to 600 m on the waterline. On the southern side of the Yangtzehaven, the basin will also be locally widened to accommodate waiting berths for inland shipping.
Maasvlakte 2 will feature two inlet basins with a width of 450 m and a length of approximately 2,500 m. The ports will follow the dominant south-western wind direction, minimising the influence of the wind on the vessels. The width of the basins is based on the location of container terminals on both sides. There is sufficient width for an ocean-going vessel and an inland vessel to pass container ships that are docked on both sides and that are furthermore supplied by bunker vessels. This means that all vessels can sail to and from their loading and unloading sites under virtually all conditions. The Yangtzehaven will be linked to the eastern inlet basin via a so-called connection channel that can also accommodate berths on both sides. The northern and southern sides of the connection channel will feature turning basins with a diameter of 700 m, allowing ships to turn and to access the inlet basins in reverse. The ships can also pass one another in these areas.
Points of departure
The existing accessibility requirements were guiding in the development of the maritime design. This ensures that the port's high level of accessibility and safety is maintained. These requirements were constantly tested during the drawing up of the design. In this process, the accessibility was expressed in terms of the stay-over time in the port. In the case of maritime safety, the tests focused on whether the risk of accidents was equal to or smaller than in the current situation.
Ocean-going vessels need to be able to sail smoothly from the entrance of the port to their eventual berths, in other words: the port needs to offer smooth and safe maritime accessibility. Smooth means being able to sail as far as possible in a continuous movement. The effective determination of the dimensions of the fairways and extensive shipping support will prevent delays. Safe means a minimised risk of accidents. Here too, the design of the fairways and the shipping support services are of key importance. Entering the port, the vessel makes the transition from sailing at sea to sailing between the northern and southern port dams and is subjected to major changes in the conditions such as current and waves. The construction of Maasvlakte 2 will cause the current running north (the tide) to be ‘pinched' along the coast, resulting in a stronger current in the Maasgeul. The design of Maasvlakte 2's hard seawall directs the current to the port entrance, creating an even and predictable current. It has been concluded on the basis of research results that the current in the Maasgeul and the Maas Entrance will improve for shipping in comparison with the original situation. The waves from the north and northwest will bounce back off the hard seawall. This could in theory create a wave pattern that forms a nuisance for smaller vessels. The researchers concluded however that the wave conditions are comparable to the existing situation.
Sailing times study
Growth in the existing port area and the construction of Maasvlakte 2 will lead to an increase in shipping traffic. To determine the effect of this increase on accessibility, researchers have conducted a sailing times study. This studies what the effects of the increase in shipping traffic will be on sailing time. The study concludes that the extra sailing time as a result of increased shipping to Maasvlakte 1 and 2 is acceptable. Vessels that have Calandkanaal, the city or Botlek as their destinations will not experience an increase in sailing times.
Extensive simulation studies into shipping manoeuvres, using real-time simulators, have mapped out whether the dimensions of the waterways and the port basins will suffice. On the basis of the results of these studies, their translation into the design and the availability of the right facilities, it was concluded that Rotterdam will maintain its safe and smooth maritime accessibility.