Research Theme: Port

The port of Rotterdam is the biggest port in Europe, accounting for approximately 40% of the share in hinterland transport. The port provides employment for over 380,000 people and has a total added value of over €46 bn. The port area faces tremendously complex challenges due to uncertainties in types and volumes of future cargo flows, types and demand for future energy carriers, increasingly strict societal and governmental requirements on emissions and health impacts, the effects of global climate changes, the availability of suitably skilled human capital, and the rapid emergence of new digitisation technologies. Because these challenges are intricately related, addressing them needs to be done from an interdisciplinary perspective. The central question within the research theme ‘Port’ is how to deal with these uncertainties and changing circumstances in supporting the port, along with its surrounding ecosystem, in transitioning to its future roles.

The first line of research of our ‘Port’ theme addresses the development of a Digital Twin of the Port that supports improvement and efficiency of interactions between port and city. Experiments will combine physical infrastructure, such as networks of sensors and new ways of transport, with digital infrastructure. In this way, an innovative dynamic digital real-time model of the port of Rotterdam will emerge, that can be used for research and scenarios for strategic decision-making for the city and port. This project will give great impulse to the development of smart logistics for shipping and transport, thereby leading to a positive economic impact for both port and city, plus a healthier and more sustainable living environment for the port employees and the residents of the port area.

Our second line of research deals with the social responsibility of the port. Examples relevant to the Responsible Port include the role of the port on climate change (the port causes 90% of the CO2 emissions of the whole city of Rotterdam and 20% at national level), the impact of the port on the health of its employees and the residents of the port area (particulate emissions), and the relationship between the port and the job market: the impact of port digitisation and new business models on the types of jobs offered by the port on the one hand, but also the port’s need for qualified employees on the other.