Right now, the port of Rotterdam is realising one of the biggest land reclamation projects in the world in order to expand its capacity. In September 2008 the construction of Maasvlakte 2 was started, increasing the size of the port by 20 percent and realising an expansion of Dutch soil by 2000 hectares. Apart from being a great example of good project management, it may also provide an interesting question to the international law of the sea.

Last year, the port of Rotterdam had a total throughput of 441.525.000 kilotons, which was spread over almost 11.8 million containers. To put it in perspective, 441.525.000 kilotons is the weight of about 465.000 Fiat Panda’s. The throughput of cargo is still growing every year and it was calculated that by 2014, the port would have become too small to live up to the expectations. Therefore the port has started the project Maasvlakte 2.

According to plan, Maasvlakte 2 will be ready for use by the end of 2013 concluding the first phase of constructions. In this first phase, during a period of about five years, 2000 hectares of land was reclaimed, moving the Dutch coastal line 3,5 kilometres into the North Sea (click the link on aerial views to see the progress). Moreover, they created a quay of 1250 meters long and 38 meters deep, making the port accessible to the biggest container carriers out there.

Concerning project management, the Maasvlakte 2 thus teaches us that when economic interests are at stake, it apparently is possible to run projects in time and within a given budget, even when they are as enormously complex as this one. There appears to be a stark contrast with projects for the public good, lead by local authorities. An excellent example of this would be the North-South metro line in Amsterdam, which is years behind on schedule and is exceeding its budget by millions of Euros.

However, the Maasvlakte 2 project may raise another question, namely, what are the consequences of the Dutch land reclamation with regard to international law now the Dutch coastal line has shifted by 3,5 kilometres. Could the Dutch authority make a claim to expand its territorial sea, using the new coastal line as a baseline? Or won’t there be any consequences at all?

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