Powering up

Delfzijl and Eemshaven are Dutch port towns located on the left bank of the river Ems estuary that have become important hubs for utilities and the maritime industry in the Netherlands. Delfzijl’s roots as a trading seaport go back to the 16th century but its modern, industrially developed face began in the latter half of the 1900s. Eemshaven is a much younger site, opened as a petrochemical port in 1973 as part of a Government initiative to transform Eemsmond into an economically vibrant area. Since 1997, both are under the authority of Groningen Seaports along with two inland ports – Farmsumerhaven and Oosterhornhaven – that are connected to Delfzijl by the Eemskanaal.

Erik Bertholet, logistics manager for Groningen Seaports and commercial manager at Groningen Railport (GRP), lays out the authority’s responsibilities: “Our role is to provide full port services ranging from logistics to the provision of high quality industrial and business sites in both port areas. We are a full-service provider as well as an initiator, entrepreneur and facilitator, supporting business partners in every way possible. To this end we offer partners easily accessible waterways, speed of service, space in every sense of the word, high quality port facilities and personnel, and fast access by rail, road and inland waterways.”

Furthermore, Groningen Seaports’ assets are connected via inland waterways to some of Europe’s most important ports including Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg making them ideal for businesses looking to establish a strong north European presence. The strategic location of both seaports meant Eemshaven last year saw nearly 2.8 million tonnes of cargo whilst Defzijl handled more than 4.8 million tonnes. Both sites also support specialist sectors. Delfzijl has parks dedicated to the chemical, metal and recycling industries as well as small to medium enterprises (SMEs) whilst Eemshaven has parks specifically for energy, recycling and logistics businesses.

“Eemshaven is already home to the largest power plant in Holland,” says Erik, talking about one of the port’s most unique features. “It is a 2450 megawatt combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facility owned by Electrabel GDF Suez. However, another two power plants are under construction at the moment. One is a 1200-megawatt multifuel plant owned by Nuon / Vattenfal, the other a 1600-megawatt coal and biomass plant owned by RWE / Essent. Both are scheduled to begin production in 2013. Last year, E.ON opened a so-called ‘energy-from-waste’ plant at the Oosterhornhaven industrial park, whilst Eneco announced recently the investment in a new 49 megawatt bio-energy power facility within the Delfzijl port area.”

The existing and imminent energy generation capabilities offered by the ports has affected growth in other areas as well. The information technology sector, for example, has shown a lot of interest with establishing data warehouses in the area with one already in operation. It’s also seen the creation of a new multipurpose terminal, including 260-metre quay, named Orange Blue Terminals owned by the Buss Group.

As these new construction projects highlight, another of the great advantages of Groningen Seaports’ sites is the development space it can offer potential business partners – and at reasonable prices. “Barely any water-related areas are available anymore,” Erik explains, “but there is room for expansion inland. The region has good, dependable infrastructure that is uncongested including the largest rail terminal in the country. GRP contains four tracks, each 750 metres, with three for container shuttles and the fourth for conventional trains complete with roofed warehouse. There are four container shuttles to and from Rotterdam per week. GRP has permits for hazardous cargo so it is an important terminal for the chemical industry at Delfzijl, which is responsible for 15 per cent of the total Dutch chemical production.”

Despite the recession having a significant impact on Groningen Seaports, both cargo and business enjoyed a growth throughout 2010 and that trend continues into this year. New companies continue taking an interest in the benefits provided by Delfzijl and Eemshaven, paving a clear path of success for the authority.

In particular, the location of Eemshaven at the edge of the North Sea has started to draw in companies involved with the off-shore wind energy industry. Wagenborg Stevedoring and Wagenborg Nedlift are two companies using the port for the pre-assembly of wind turbines that were later installed at Alpha Ventus, Germany’s first offshore wind farm. Pontoons and jack-ups are also frequent visitors to the port during construction projects. Eemshaven currently houses 88 windmills. As the locations of the off-shore wind farms are situated in the direct surrounding of Eemshaven, more players in the wind energy industry are becoming aware of the port’s advantages. With the German sector of this industry soon to flourish, the large amount of space at the port combined with the uncongested inland infrastructure means Groningen Seaports will capitalise.

“There remains approximately 500 hectares of land open for development at Delfzijl and another 250 hectares at Eemshaven,” says Erik, looking toward the future. “These are rapidly decreasing but we welcome all interested clients and industries. Already there are plans for the Beatrix basin to be completed for short sea traffic and offshore wind possibilities, including a quay for heavy cargo, and the Wilhelmina basin is being extended with its fairway deepened to 14 metres draft. We hope this means over the next five years that almost all our available land will have been sold or leased, our ports will have doubled their throughput, and the region will be important to the European logistics platform.”

Major new power plants being built in port areas
Prime location with land available for development
Continuing to upgrade cargo and freighting facilities