Port Competition within the Le-Havre-Hamburg range (1850-2013)

Hein Klemann, DM Koppenol

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterProfessional


In the nineteenth century, steam power and railways caused a transport revolution. Not only did investments in railways push industrialization as the demand for coal, iron, and steel rocketed with their development, but the railways also connected industrial centres with markets, raw material producing areas, and seaports. Inland transport became possible on a previously unknown scale. Indeed, in the period 1840–70, the train became the dominant mode of transport, with inland navigation losing its leading position. A rapidly growing rail network was able to solve most transport problems of the developing industry, including that in the Ruhr area. This region built one of the densest rail networks in Europe, with numerous national and international connections. By 1870, most transport in the Rhine basin took place by rail. Nevertheless, in this part of Europe, inland navigation made a come-back and from the 1890s recaptured its dominance. This development requires explanation as such a recovery did not take place in other industrialized regions. It strengthened the competitiveness of Rotterdam against Antwerp, Hamburg and Bremen. From the 1890s, Rotterdam developed into the most important seaport of the Ruhr area and as that area became the principal industrial centre of Europe, it became Europe’s main port. Especially in the post-1945 period this caused an enormous port expansion in the direction of and even into the sea. This article tries to explain why Rotterdam became the first port of Europe and its consequences for its expansion, but also why in the post-war period the port grew fast again until 1973, but competition became fiercer after 1989. To understand that it is necessary to turn first to the Rhine.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSmart Port Perspectives. Essays in honor of Hans Smits
EditorsB. Kuipers, R. Zuidwijk
Place of PublicationRotterdam
Number of pages164
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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