A member of the SEA20 network of marine cities, Rotterdam promotes itself as the Maritime Capital of Europe. As part of the research work for ourforthcoming global analysis on the future of maritime, we talked to Martijn Troost from the Rotterdam Maritime Board about his views on advancing the sustainability of marine ecosystems.


Cities typically have a good vantage point for providing a holistic view of the various operators and stakeholders involved in marine ecosystems. The Dutch city of Rotterdam is a pioneer in developing the local maritime infrastructure into an innovative ecosystem, supporting, for example, service providers, shipbuilders and offshore companies. Also, since the Netherlands is geographically very low relative to sea level, the country has been a forerunner in developing innovations related to adapting to rising sea levels. For a coastal city such as Rotterdam, combating climate change is crucial. 


Rotterdam is at a promising starting point for realising a sustainable marine ecosystem, says Martijn Troost, Project Manager Maritime Business at Rotterdam Maritime Board.


“As the Maritime Capital of Europe, we have set the target of making Rotterdam the smartest and cleanest port in the world, offering sustainable shipping to customers worldwide. We have a clear regional ambition to reduce CO2 emissions in the port area, and our maritime industry and suppliers have, for example, launched programmes for developing and using cleaner ways for propulsion. We are currently looking into scaling up our regional innovations, as I believe this is something we could offer for shipping companies and port operators worldwide,” Troost says.


He adds that building partnerships and, for example, sharing data and best practices on sustainable shipping may be easier on a global level, as ports that are geographically closer to each other tend to be main competitors. However, Rotterdam’s view is that cooperation is necessary in order to achieve the best results and provides a win-win situation for all parties. In general, Troost sees that the sheer diversity of the maritime cluster is an important asset for creating innovative solutions to the current challenges. At the same time, this diversity is the main obstacle for getting everyone involved to commit to an ambitious sustainability agenda.


Cleaner energy and increased efficiency


For Rotterdam, the main focus is on clean energy, which has a direct effect on the air quality in ports and the surrounding urban region. Troost believes that the need for new energy solutions and technologies offers various interesting opportunities for different stakeholders in the maritime business.


“Other priorities for developing our region include reducing congestion and traffic jams. Also, the availability of land in the port area is limited for specific industries and there is little space for constructing new housing in the surrounding urban area. Another focus point is related to developing the port region as a healthy, safe and pleasant area for living, combining the economic agenda with, the needs of citizens and visitors,” Troost says.


When considering the situation in Rotterdam by the next decade, Troost expects that the Rotterdam region has reached the targets set by the Paris agreement and is considered as an example of effective collaboration on a regional level to fight climate change.


“By 2030 shipping has switched for a large part to cleaner energy sources and certain vessels will be fully powered by electricity. The city itself will be more sustainable, utilising, for example, solar energy and automated public transport. Advanced technology will enable the collection and sharing of data to ease the flow of transport and shorten waiting times in ports. In the longer term – by the year 2100 – Rotterdam will be directly connected with London, operating with fully automated containers and systems that are adaptable to changes in water levels,” Troost envisions.


All in all, Rotterdam expects networks such as SEA20 to adopt a practical approach, so that its activities are not limited to the exchange of ideas. In Troost’s view, it is important for the maritime industry to gain a position in public discourse similar to the status that aviation has reached in the last decade. We must relearn the significance of oceans and seaports for the environment, economy and the mobility of goods and people, and involve all major operators worldwide.