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Changing world puts pressure on Dutch role in global trade

Rotterdam port ranks tenth now

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

UTRECHT – Burgeoning economies elsewhere in the world are pushing the leading position of The Netherlands as a distributor to the background. A Rabobank report on the future of Dutch trade warns that the Netherlands needs to be proactive in order to slow or counter the trend.

With most economic growth occurring outside of Europe, many products will in the future no longer pass through Dutch ports, changing the country’s distribution role to one of perhaps a supervisory role in global goods movement. Because of different economic growth patterns, most of the increase in global trade will occur elsewhere too. Currently, the Dutch share of global trade stands at 3.7 percent while the Netherlands is home to only one percent of total world production.

Notwithstanding this challenging scenario, Rabobank analysts believe there are still opportunities for growth - but mainly in the organization of logistical processes in which the actual transit of goods does not necessarily go through the Netherlands but could be arranged from there. The bank believes that such a logistical freight service would create quality employment opportunities in the Netherlands.


Growth can also be realized in the trade with China and Eastern Europe, even though Rabobank warns that the port of Rotterdam will face increasing competition from Constanta in Romania.

Constanta is also more favourably located for freight to and from China. At present, German ports such as Bremerhaven and Hamburg still represent the keenest competition for Rotterdam.

Ports abroad

In the 1970s, Rotterdam ranked as the world’s largest volume processor. It continues to be Europe’s largest by far but on a global scale is has settled at a more modest place. It is now the tenth largest container port and the third largest by cargo tonnage; Chinese ports lead the way by far. This has not stopped the Rotterdam port authority from marketing its expertise in faraway places – China, Brazil and Malaysia - where it is building or operating harbours and segment ports.

Just recently Dutch officials agreed with their Flemish counterparts to start promoting their territories as the Delta region, which includes the port of Antwerp, a centuries-long rival to Rotterdam.