Do business, live in beautiful surroundings and enjoy endless recreation Nowhere else in the Netherlands is the contrast quite as stark as on the South Holland island of Voorne-Putten. Beautiful, historical villages and fortified towns stand out against the ‘wonder’ of the Botlek area and the ports of Rotterdam with their countless shipping companies and mega oil tankers on the Nieuwe Waterweg. Spijkenisse, Carlton Oasis’ home harbour, is the beating heart of one of the most beautiful and successful business areas in our country. Contributing editor: Mariëtte van de Rest Images: Bastiaan van Musscher a.o.
an island of contrasts 80
THE SECOND MAASVLAKTE: RECLAIMED FROM THE SEA Part of the success of businesses on VoornePutten is thanks to the construction of Maasvlakte 2. Maasvlakte 2 (also known as Second Maasvlakte) is the name given to the project to extend the Port of Rotterdam to the west of the Maasvlakte. These 2,000 hectares amount to a twenty per cent extension to the port. The various ports now cover an area of 12,000 hectares. On 1 September 2008 the construction commenced after years of planning, discussions and protests. The expectation is that the extension will be completed this year. The infrastructure has been laid and a goods railway already runs to Maasvlakte 2. Maasvlakte 2 consists of new reclaimed land and lies directly adjacent to the existing Maasvlakte. One thousand hectares have been set aside for port-related industry. The remaining area is needed for infrastructure (290 hectares), sea defences (230 hectares) and shipping lanes and harbours (510 hectares). Havenbedrijf Rotterdam NV commissioned the construction of Maasvlakte 2. It is not a stand-alone project. The port extension is part of the Project Main Port Development Rotterdam (PMR). The project’s objective is to reinforce Rotterdam as the main port and to further improve the living conditions in the region in harmony with this. The PMR project also includes the setting up of a nature and recreational area, as well as a number of projects together entitled ‘Existing Rotterdam Area’. The new port area has been built in phases. Maasvlakte 2 has a depth of 20 metres which means that it is accessible to new generation large container ships.
he A15 (the motorway that runs from Nijmegen to the Maasvlakte... or vice versa) is the access road to Voorne-Putten, and to Spijkenisse. After Rotterdam – where you still have a view over the impressive skyline – you would be forgiven for imagining that you’re in an almost futuristic environment surrounded by harbour companies and industry, oil storage depots, windmills and water. Undeniably the Port of Rotterdam – also known as Europoort and Rijnmond – in all its glory! The view across to this area in the evenings, once all the lights come one, is even more impressive. There’s something tough and inaccessible about it. And it’s bustling with activity. Once you cross the bridge at the Spijkenisse turnoff, you get to the most northerly of the South Holland islands. Spijkenisse is a stone’s throw from Rotterdam, which makes it all the more remarkable that 50 metres beyond the Carlton Oasis you’ll find yourself in a wonderful nature area. Or turn right and head towards Den Briel (Brielle) and pass the villages of Geervliet, Heenvliet and Zwartewaal to the right. Just amazing: so much history, and such priceless, beautiful and picturesque villages. While it may look strange because oil storage tanks and windmills line every horizon, the island inhabitants are happy to accept this. Their island covers an area in the province of South Holland between Haringvliet, the Spui, the Oude Maas and Lake Den Briel, just south of Rijnmond’s harbour and industrial area. It consists of what used to be the islands of Voorne and Putten. Due the silting of the Bernisse (brackish water that used to separate the two islands), the two islands joined and were then linked to the rest of the province by bridges, tunnels and dams. Because of the strong economic ties with Rotterdam and the Rotterdam port area, Voorne-Putten falls under the Rotterdam Urban Region. The main towns on Voorne-Putten are Spijkenisse, the old fort town of Brielle, the former marine harbour of Hellevoetsluis and the seaside resort towns of Rockanje and Oostvoorne. Brielle is the unofficial capital of the island, although Spijkenisse is definitely the main municipality in terms of facilities.
Mark de Vos
BOTLEK: A ‘REMARKABLE SALTMARSH’ Frederik Reimers
George de la Croix
This is the island of contrasts, where no less than 40 per cent of the working population drives across to the Rotterdam harbours every day. An island which – as opposed to the rest of the Netherlands – only 2 per cent of the population is unemployed, where no fewer than 15,000 companies are registered with the Chamber of Commerce and a total population (including children) of 170,000 people.
Networking at micro-level Clearly the economy on Voorne-Putten works differently to the rest of the Netherlands. One could call it an economy on micro-level. One thing is for sure: the island is an autonomous area with low unemployment. Why this should be remains a mystery. Almost half of the working population have jobs in the harbours of Rijnmond and Botlek, and many companies, as suppliers of services and products, are also dependent on the harbours. George de la Croix (chairman of the OFS, the Spijkenisse Businessmen’s Federation), Mark de Vos (chairman of the Botlek Business Club) and Cees Vingerling (bank manager) know all about this. These gentlemen are all genuine islanders and act as ambassadors for this exceptional area. In addition to this, they all have a special connection with Carlton Oasis, not in the least because that is where they do business and hold meetings. De la Croix: ‘the Carlton Oasis is like our lining room! Our club consists of a good cross section of Spijkenisse companies and, as the ones responsible for looking out for the interests of our members, we have a good relationship with the municipality. We are also good friends with the other clubs. Our members want and can network, and all these meetings put more business their way.’ One of OFS’s fellow clubs is the Botlek Business Club, which also likes to use the Carlton Oasis given that 80 per cent of its members are from Voorne-Putten and the Botlek area. ‘Our clubs have a bridging function in Voorne-Putten’s business life,’ says De Vos. ‘This is where the economy’s engine is situated. This is where it all happens!’
The Botlek is the name of Rotterdam’s harbour and industrial area, situated to the west of the Oude Maas, between the Scheur River and the A15 motorway. The north-western section of the area is on the former island of Rozenburg; the south-eastern section is situated where the Welplaat used to be. The area is named after the Botlek, part of the Nieuwe Maas. According to the Dictionary of the Dutch Language, the name ‘Botlek’ refers to a ‘gap’ in the tidal inlet of the Maas River where a lot of flounder (bot in Dutch) used to be caught; in Van der Aa’s geographical dictionary, ‘the Botlek’ is referred to as a ‘remarkable saltmarsh’ on the west side of the former island of Welplaat. Between 1850 and 1875, this area, which used to be part of the Nieuwe Maas, underwent a name change that refers to this saltmarsh. The old watercourse has become part of the Botlek area’s central channel and is still referred to as Botlek. In the Botlek area, you’ll mainly find the companies in petrochemical industry and oil storage sector as well as dry bulk commodity storage companies. The first company to set up there was Dow Chemicals in 1956, followed by the shipyard, Cornelis Verolme, in 1957. By 1960, all available ground had been allocated. LBC took over the Dow plant a few years ago, and what used to be the Verolme shipyard is mainly used as a repair wharf, particularly by the offshore industry.
A unique and rugged piece of the Netherlands!
As a consequence, this is where a great deal of networking takes place. ‘These days, networking is paramount, all across the Netherlands of course, but especially on Voorne-Putten. We’re just that little bit more dependent on each other here. It’s a matter of give and sharing,’ Cees Vingerling adds. ‘What goes on in our hotel is a prime example of networking,’ General Manager Frederik Reimers agrees. ‘Oasis plays an important role locally. We speak the same language here on VoornePutten. No nonsense; telling it like it is. Say what you’re doing and stick to your promises. A Rotterdam mentality!’ The harbour area, a stone’s throw from Rotterdam (second largest harbour in the world), is flourishing and has recently been extended by the Maasvlakte 2. That this is working wonders for the economy on Voorne-Putten is very clear. Vingerling: ‘It’s in the harbour that there’s good business to be done, and the second Maasvlakte has brought with it a good deal of investment; our harbour-related businesses profit directly from this.’ Vos and De la Croix are quick to point out that you have to take the initiative, business doesn’t just walk in the door...
GEERVLIET AND HEENVLIET: SMALL BUT BEAUTIFUL!
This is how Frederik Reimers puts it: ‘If I were to sum up doing business on Voorne-Putten in a few words it would be: see and be seen in combination with “we’re all in it together”, being centrally situated between the harbours of Rotterdam and the villages and towns on Voorne-Putten. That’s what it boils down to, it’s as simple as that.’ Is all that glitters gold on Voorne-Putten? ‘Of course not,’ says Vingerling. ‘Everything to do with housing is battling here too and shops that don’t differentiate themselves are not doing well. But in all honesty, the economic potential and value of the harbour and the Maasvlaktes have a direct effect on our local economy. That’s what makes Voorne-Putten a unique piece of the Netherlands.’ ∞
If you’re in Voorne-Putten, you must visit Geervliet and Heenvliet, two beautiful historical villages; it will be well worth your while. You’ll be taken back in time. During the Middle Ages, the exquisite Geervliet was protected by city walls, but later it was largely destroyed by a fire. The old centre, however, has survived. There is also the Bernisse Mill, now a restaurant, which was built on what used to be a defence tower that was part of the city wall. A few years ago, Geervliet was the location for an NCRV film entitled De zomer van 1945 (The Summer of 1945). Heenvliet is a place with a long history. The market square has been remained in its original state and is one of the bestpreserved in Voorne-Putten. The history of this town goes back far beyond 1469 when the town was granted city rights. Heenvliet Castle was built in around 1250; it comprised mainly of a remarkably fortified keep. Angelus Merula (1487-1557) was held captive in the keep’s dungeon. This pastor from Heenvliet was arrested by the inquisition and eventually sentenced to death by burning at the stake. The town also went through troubled times in 1572 when wandering renegades from the 80 Years War made the area unsafe and destroyed castles after the capture of Den Briel. Steward and diplomat Johan Polyander van den Kerckhove (1594-1660) - known at home and abroad as ‘Heer van Heenvliet’ - bought the castle in the seventeenth century. He turned the building into a palace of exceptional allure.
FUTURELAND Voorne-Putten is just as beautiful as it is interesting and has high recreational value to boot. Voorne-Putten not only has beaches, history, forts, cycle paths and ruins: these days it also has Futureland that is situated on the Second Maasvlakte, the latest tourist attraction. Futureland is the Second Maasvlakte’s information centre. It has a cinema, interactive model and various information halls. The Port of Rotterdam’s centre was opened in 2009 and had 100,000 visitors in the first year. The Futureland Express has been doing tours across the new land since the summer of 2010.