Reclaim the Harbour

There’s a big problem with the Rotterdam Harbour. Behind the city’s symbol of growth, prosperity, and open gate to the world is a thick smokescreen hiding a bleak reality: the harbour is widely dependent on fossil fuels, relies on polluting industries, harms our collective health & prosperity and is driven by profits over people.

What is the Rotterdam harbour?

The Rotterdam Harbour is quite literally a silhouette in the distance. It is difficult for us residents to imagine how many activities the Harbour is actually home to. Ships from around the world come to unload and load cargo like containers, bulk goods (like coal and oil), and specialized goods (like chemicals). Furthermore, the port is at the heart of a distribution network, acting as a central hub for distributing goods across Europe by road, rail, and waterway. These are the most visible functions of the port: we see cargo passing by the Maas and cranes handling containers in the distance. Another important activity of the Harbour is industrial Processing: Industries operate within the port, including manufacturing, refining, and chemical production. Finally, the Harbour is home to cruise ship tourism harms the planet by emitting air pollutants, releasing untreated waste, depleting resources, and causing habitat disruption.

Who rules over the harbour?

Kaart van de haven van Rotterdam

Why take action?

Covering a vast expanse of 12,600 hectares, Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam, also bears the unfortunate title of being the most environmentally harmful. Its operations significantly contribute to the climate and ecological crisis in various ways, some apparent and others hidden. Industries like refineries emit pollutants into air, water, and soil. Ships discharge contaminants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. Cargo handling releases dust and contaminants. Accidental oil and chemical spills taint water and surroundings. Inadequate waste disposal adds to marine litter. Ballast water brings invasive species and toxins. Industrial and shipping activities affect air and noise quality, while intense artificial lighting disrupts wildlife and communities. The list is long and will keep getting longer without radical change. The livability of Rotterdam is directly in danger.

We’re (literally) sick of it

Numerous toxic and polluting substances are released from the port, which we then breathe in. Most of this happens without proper monitoring. The actual pollution isn’t measured, but the consequences can be felt. The cost in lost years of life from the top 5 emitters is a staggering €2.7 billion annually.

Read more about the harbour’s impact on our health and reclaiming our air

The crisis is already here

Time is not on our side. The Netherlands must awaken to the climate crisis and strive for climate neutrality within this decade to keep global warming within the 1.5-degree Celsius limit. This future is incompatible with business-as-usual. A concerning 17% of total CO2 emissions in the Netherlands come directly from industrial activities in this harbor. Rotterdam’s maritime sector emits a frightening 13.7 million tons of CO2 annually.

Read more about the harbour’s impact on our climate & the environment and reclaiming our future

We’re all in this together

The Rotterdam Harbour connects us with the world. Indeed, the consequences of the Harbour’s operations are felt across the globe: the pollution affects air quality and marine ecosystems far beyond our immediate surroundings and the fossil fuel operations of the Harbour depend on extractive projects that hurt communities from West Africa to Brazil. Here too, the situation is unjust: the workers of the Harbour are not being prepared and protected from the inevitable industry changes. Their health is already put at risk; their prosperity will be too.

Read more about the harbour’s impact on workers & reclaiming our jobs

No transparency behind smoke screens

The City of Rotterdam has declared Climate Emergency. The Netherlands has agreed to the Paris Agreement. The two shareholders of the Port Authority are public, democratic institutions. Yet, the decision-making process frequently excludes the municipality and fails to prioritize the public interest. The Port Authority, the City of Rotterdam and the Dutch government are sacrificing long-term climate effects and citizens’ health for competitiveness and attracting multinationals.

Read more about the harbour’s lack of transparency and democracy & reclaiming our voice

What do we want? When do we want it?

We demand the Port Authority and the Municipality of Rotterdam assume responsibility and transform the Port of Rotterdam into an entity committed to climate justice and social good. Rotterdammers deserve a port that prioritizes their health and well-being, the job security of port workers, and the port’s long-term economic viability in the face of a decarbonising world.

Reclaim the Harbour!

In the face of this crisis, we, Extinction Rebellion, raise our voices in defiance and demand immediate, transformative action.

Our Demands

1. Reclaim Our Future

Time is not on our side. We demand the end of the Fossil Port by 2030. The Netherlands must awaken to the climate crisis and strive for climate neutrality within this decade to keep global warming within the 1.5-degree Celsius limit. This future is incompatible with the continuation of fossil port activities. The Port must chart a new course towards transparency, ceasing all fossil activities, and focusing on real solutions that reduce CO2 emissions.

2. Reclaim Our Jobs

We demand security and prosperity for all port workers. Green jobs must be the bedrock of our new economy. Companies that have profited from environmental destruction must bear the financial burden of retraining employees and creating new, sustainable job opportunities. This is the path to a just transition, ensuring protection and new prospects for workers in the green sector.

3. Reclaim Our Air

The air we breathe bears the toxic scars of port activities, affecting the health of every Rotterdam resident. We demand accountability, transparency, and restitution from those responsible. We demand solid measures to monitor toxic emissions, research into health risks, and compensation for the people of Rotterdam to rectify health damages and invest in local green infrastructure.

4. Reclaim Our Voice

The shareholders of the Port Authority must honor their societal duty to protect citizens’ health and combat climate change. The Port must abandon its unattainable green growth strategy, adjust its statutes to consider public interests, democratize decision-making processes and let citizen decide for their future. We reclaim the Port for the People of Rotterdam.