Four hundred years ago, Dutch naval entrepreneurs operated the world’s largest fleet and established the world’s first multinational company. Today, the Netherlands is once again a leading maritime nation, operating Europe’s largest inland shipping fleet and with world-leading manufacturers of specialised vessels. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port by far and Amsterdam is Europe’s fourth-largest.
The total waterway network in the Netherlands covers some 5046 km, of which 4800 km is suitable for the shipment of goods. Together, the main transport axes and main waterways total some 1400 km in length. The remaining waterways provide a total length of approximately 3400 km. Waterways have long been in existence and are not only used for navigational purposes, but also for the drainage of water. They form a complete water system.
Due to its location at the mouth of several important European rivers such as the Rhine, the Maas and the Schelde, the Netherlands is the gateway to the European hinterland. In addition to these rivers, the numerous canals and lakes that connect the major cities provide the Netherlands with an excellent interconnected network for the waterborne transport of goods. Today, inland shipping still continues to play a major role in transport.
Key facts and figures:
- Connected to main European waterways: Rhine, Meuse, Moselle, Danube, and NW Europe canal system
- 50% of European barge fleet is registered in the Netherlands
- Strong maritime industry
- Financial infrastructure for inland shipping with specialised banks
- Internationally oriented shipping industry
- More than 100 million tons of goods annually cross the Dutch-German border by inland waterway
- Innovation cluster in IT, ship design, shipbuilding and intermodal networks
- High quality education specialised in inland shipping
Dutch maritime technology is also highly developed. The Netherlands is renowned worldwide for its complex vessels (specifically dredging vessels), high-speed patrol boats construction vessels for the offshore industry, mega-yachts and dedicated short sea ships.
Several Dutch consultancies have world-leading positions in maritime engineering, dredging, and spatial planning, in part due to experience gained through the Rotterdam and Amsterdam ports. Dutch companies are frequently called upon to construct and maintain ports and waterways worldwide.
Specialist R&D institutes are laying the foundations for innovation in areas such as shipbuilding, maritime construction, materials technology, and marine ecology.
The government, academia and the private sector are implementing a long-term innovation programme that focuses on the need of the energy sector to embrace LNG, the production of gas and oil in ultra-deep water, and the ongoing growth of global shipping.
There is strong institutional support and active public-private cooperation that focuses on international cooperation and the creation of water networks. Committed to a better approach to international water management, the Dutch government has signed bilateral agreements to advance integrated water management in countries across the globe.