Europe’s geography is great for maritime activities. With over 70,000 km of shores Europe counts for 1,200 commercial ports with direct and indirect positive impacts on jobs and growth.
Yet, it is likely the severity of natural hazards will increase due to climate change. Increasing temperatures, rising sea level, changing river discharges, as well as more intense and frequent extreme weather events require substantial adaptation strategies and call for enhanced stakeholder dialogue for an inclusive decision-making process.
The Port of Rotterdam is located in the mouth of the Rhine-Meuse Delta in the Netherlands. It is the largest port in Europe and of vital importance for the Dutch economy. The port is also one of the safest with respect to flood risk. However, it is expected that the frequency of floods in the port areas will increase due to climate change.
The Port of Rotterdam Case Study Area
The ENHANCE project case study ‘Port of Rotterdam’ focuses on the strategic preparation to prevent or minimise economic losses and societal disruption resulting from floods. The ultimate goal is to reduce and/or mitigate flood risk by strengthening or enhancing the current flood risk partnership (Multi-Sector Partnership, MSP) involving the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Province of South-Holland.
This current MSP primarily aims to reduce the flood risk of new developments on unembanked industrial areas in the Port of Rotterdam, which are not incorporated in the national flood protection policy. Since 2011 the Province has enforced a policy framework for building in unembanked areas. The municipality applies the accompanying Risk Assessment Tool in order to evaluate and assess different design alternatives within new land use and zoning plans.
An evaluation of the MSP shows that there is a lack of awareness, information and communication between stakeholders in the port region with regard to flood risk of unembanked areas. Therefore, improving the available flood risk information, and improving insights in the consequences of a flood can, together with a sound communication strategy, make businesses more aware of present and future flood risks in the Port of Rotterdam.
To decrease the information deficit, the port’s flood risk related to storm surges has been assessed in terms of direct and indirect economic losses, failure of infrastructure and societal disruption. The quantitative flood risk assessment highlights the economic losses and societal disruption both inside and outside the port under various flooding scenarios. The port’s future flood risk is comparable to the flood risk in certain, highly protected, embanked areas in The Netherlands. The current risk governance solution is not an appropriate response to extreme floods in the future. Especially not for the existing developments.
Extending the current MSP
An enhanced partnership should recognise the role the Port of Rotterdam plays at the national level. Also, it should trigger cost re-allocation between the various levels of risk governance. The enhanced MSP should at least include:
• the national government as the Port is of strategic importance to the country;
• the Port Authority as main ‘landlord’ of the Port area;
• the Municipality of Rotterdam;
• private parties: business and industry in the Port area as driving force of the Dutch economy;
• the Province of South-Holland, and
• other stakeholders with knowledge required to reduce or mitigate flood risk or responsibilities with regards to a safe environment: e.g. environmental agency DCMR, safety region, water boards, and utility companies.
Pilot Study: Botlek area
In 2016 the national government started the ‘pilot study Botlek’, which aims to develop a climate adaptation strategy for the Botlek area. The following main stakeholders coordinate the pilot study: Port Authority Rotterdam, (executive body of) the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and the municipality of Rotterdam. The ENHANCE project team has contributed to the pilot with a Botlek-specific flood risk assessment. The results were discussed with all stakeholders, public and private. Business and industry provided case-specific insights, which improved the quality of the assessment. The joint fact-finding process has indeed stimulated the communication between the stakeholders as well as the flood awareness.
The case study shows that flood risk management of the unembanked industrial areas in the Port of Rotterdam is a joint issue of national importance. Increased knowledge on consequences of a flood in these areas, the joint effort of the authorities, and the participation of businesses in the pilot study helped to break the vicious circle between the lack of awareness and insufficient communication. Joint fact-finding and open discussions on cost-effective disaster risk reduction solutions, ‘what is acceptable?’, risk governance, financing and partnerships will be the key factors to realise a climate adaptation strategy for the Port of Rotterdam.
—> A recommendation to the EU is to identify other critical infrastructure ‘hubs’ in Europe and map their resilience to natural (and man-made) disasters, taking into account climate change.
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Arctik – Environmental communications