by Christien van den Brink
THE HAGUE, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Skilled technical workers, sustainability and the consolidation of shipping lines are the main challenges for Port of Rotterdam, the port's CEO Hans Smits said in a recent interview.
In the Netherlands the demand for skilled workers in some industry sectors are increasing at a pace far greater than our existing community and technical colleges can produce. Due to the aging population the shortage of technical staff will become problematic, figures show.
"One of the main challenges is to find skilled technical staff in the coming years," said Smits who will leave the company and be replaced by Vice President Environment of Royal Dutch Shell Allard Castelein in January 2014.
"We need young people in our port. Due to retirement of our staff we have around 2,000 vacancies per year," Smits told Xinhua.
Another main challenge is to reach the sustainability goals.
Rotterdam is responsible for sixteen percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the Netherlands. But the Rotterdam's Port Authority says it wants to become the most sustainable port city in the world by 2015 and it has also committed to cutting its carbon emissions by half by 2025.
The CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) project is an important part of the Port of Rotterdam's strategy to reduce CO2 emissions, along with energy conservation and renewable energy.
The Port of Rotterdam is interested in the project because it wants to invest in the pipeline infrastructure that will bring the CO2 to the North Sea bed.
But the project is partly dependent on subsidies from the European Commission and the Dutch ministry. In addition, Energy companies E.ON and GDF Suez are to invest an additional 100 million euros, but they have not yet decided whether and when to actually do that.
A third challenge for the port is the growing trend of big shipping lines such as Maersk and MSC to form consolidations together in order to become more efficient and cost-effective. Ships will become bigger, and the cargo on one ship will increase considerably.
"I do expect that in a couple of years we have three or four alliances handling all the container traffic in the world. It is more or less a phenomenon that I expected already some time earlier, like we have seen in air transport," Smits said.
For the Port of Rotterdam, this automatically means that fewer ships will arrive in the port of Rotterdam, and less work for the port.
But Smits is confident about the port's future. Thanks to the second Maasvlakte, an ambitious project that extends the port by reclaiming land from the sea, Rotterdam is able to offer space to these enormous tankers.
"It means that the biggest ships in these alliances will visit the port of Rotterdam. This is already been decided. This will strengthen the port of Rotterdam as a hub for these alliances," Smits said.