Did anyone catch the latest epsidoe of Megastructures on the National Geographic Channel, the one about the Port of Rotterdam? Well, before this post divulges one of the many goodies about this particular episode, the port is something to behold. According the the Port of Rotterdam, 370 million tons of goods moved through the North Sea port in 2005. Furthermore,
The port of Rotterdam stretches out for 40 kilometers along the Nieuwe Waterweg canal (also see the Port map). The port and industrial area covers 10,500 hectares. Around 30,000 seagoing vessels and 130,000 inland vessels call at the port each year. Rotterdam is a port of call for around 500 shipping lines that maintain regular services to about 1,000 other ports. Rotterdam is Europe's most important port for oil & chemicals, containers, iron ore, coal, food and metals.
And another thing, the entrance to the port is 78 feet deep. Ornidarily, this would not present any problems to the world's container fleet. But it does present a problem to one specific vessel, the Norwegian container vessel, the MS Berge Stahl.
The Berge Stahl is a monster of a vessel. Besides being about 375 yards in length, it is also has one of the deepest draughts imaginable for a vessel: 75 feet. And only two ports in the world are capable of handling such a giant vessel: the Europort at Rotterdam and the Terminal Maritimo de Ponta da Madeira, in Itaqui, Maranhao, Brazil. When ever the Berge Stahl enters either of these ports, the repsective harbormasters deploy a fleet of dredgers, large ships that literally suck the ocean bottom into their hulls, thereby creating a deeper channel for larger ships.
A great recent posting from Pruned shows these dredging vessels in action. The majority of these vessels are owned by either Van Ord, Boskalis, Jan de Nul Group, and Dredging International, all Dutch or Belgian (read: experts in North Sea reclamation). Two of the largest trailer suction hopper dredgers (or TSHD) are Jan de Nul Group's Vasco da Gama and Boskalis' WD Fairway. Combined, these two vessels have the ability to displace a total volume of about 69,000 cubic meters.