The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe. Located on the Rhine estuary at the gateway to Northwest Europe, the port is a huge industrial complex that covers an area of 42 kilometres from the centre of the city to the North Sea. It provides goods to some 500 million Europeans and handles around 465 million tonnes of cargo per annum.
Virtually everything passes through the port of Rotterdam from fruit to cars, and from computers to the raw materials for the chemical industry. In the region of 32,000 seagoing vessels and 87,000 inland vessels call at the port of Rotterdam each year.
The Harbour Master’s Division oversees safety on the water, by order of the Rotterdam Municipality and the Dutch government. It is responsible for shipping in the port and is part of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. It is therefore fitting that the first Chairman of the Port of Rotterdam Port Welfare Committee is Harbour Master René de Vries.
Seafarers’ shore based welfare facilities are delivered, during the day and night, by numerous small groups of individuals representing autonomous, local, national and international welfare organisations. Their welfare services include port transportation, local information, welfare visits to ships alongside and seafarers in hospital. The voluntary organisations also provide support during times of accident and emergency.
The Danish Government Seamen’s Service and the Finnish Seafarers’ Church, provide seafarers’ centres at Brielle and Rotterdam, respectively. While these centres are specifically funded to provide seafarers welfare to ships sailing under their national flags, the international Mission to Seafarers Flying Angel club at Schiedam is open to all seafarers and works closely with the other providers with CASCO organising social events. Furthermore, work on a new, modern Seafarers’ ‘Drop In’ Centre, located at Oostvoorne, is underway. This new facility, innovatively situated within a vibrant local community centre, will open to all seafarers in the summer of 2016.
Over 500,000 seafarers transit the Port of Rotterdam on an annual basis and the Rotterdam PWC continues to act as the forum and the catalyst for positive change. It has brought together: Apostolate at Sea Stella Maris, Danish Government Seamen’s Service, Danish Seamen’s Church, Deutsche Seemannsmission Rotterdam, Parish Protestant Municipality Rotterdam-South, Finnish Seamen’s Church, ITF The Netherlands, Christmas Party at Sea, Mission to Seafarers “Flying Angel Schiedam, Nautilus International, Dutch Sailor Central NZC, NZC/Stichting Diaconaal Rotterdam Port Work, Protestant Merchant Work Rijnmond, Sjomannkirken Rotterdam – Norwegian Church, CASCO Foundation, The Bear Foundation, Foundation Guarantee Fund for Seafarers, Foundation International Seafarers’ Centre LCO, Foundation Christian Seamen’s Friend Society Rotterdam, Zeemanshuis Rotterdam, Port of Rotterdam, Deltalinqs, Samen 010 and Stichting Welzijn Seafarers Rotterdam.
The PWC has succeeded in bringing the maritime community together, under the auspices of Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, in order to enhance the quality of life of seafarers visiting their port.