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Netherlands Can Proceed With Rotterdam Port Upgrade, Says EU

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

26 April 2007

The European Commission has decided not to raise any objections to the contribution of the Dutch State to the Rotterdam Mainport Development Project.

The project is designed to extend the existing port, which covers 10,500 hectares and is a major contributor to the national and regional economy. By responding to the growing demand for dock and port areas, the project will solve the future space shortage in the harbour of Rotterdam.

The development project consists of the following elements:

  • The extension of the existing port area by the construction of Maasvlakte II (Meuse River plain II), an economic activity area of approximately 1000 hectares west of the current Maasvlakte I. The new area will be created by means of land reclamation;
  • The construction of a maritime access route through the current port in order to ensure the accessibility for maritime transport of Maasvlakte II;
  • The development of a 750-hectare wildlife and recreational area.

The investments amount to EUR2.8 billion (US$3.8 billion). This will be financed mainly by the Port Authority of Rotterdam. The Dutch State will contribute EUR571 million to the financing of the public infrastructure, and will purchase new shares in the Port Authority for an amount of EUR500 million.

The Dutch State will contribute to the construction of infrastructures that cannot be commercially exploited (the construction of a sea wall, the prolongation and widening of the existing maritime access route and the creation of infrastructure bundles such as rail tracks, roads, piping and conduit). This State contribution does not concern investments in port facilities which may generate revenues for the Port Authority (e.g. charging commercial fees for the use of facilities, receiving rent for new terminals, etc.). Furthermore, the Port Authority is going to pay a market price for the lease of the grounds on which the port will be extended. Therefore, the Commission has concluded that this measure does not constitute State aid.

As for the purchase of new shares, the Dutch State is paying a market price for them, with the intention of sharing in the income generated by the port of Rotterdam. The Commission has found that the decision is motivated and guided by the prospects of profitability. Thus the Dutch State acts like a private investor and therefore, the purchase of shares cannot be considered to be State aid either.

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