New attraction celebrates harbour life
A new attraction has opened celebrating Europe’s largest seaport. The Rotterdam Port Experience, underneath Erasmus Bridge, allows guests to learn more about one of the world’s largest ports and its contribution to the Dutch city.
The €10 million attraction was commissioned by the Port of Rotterdam Authority from Kranendonk Experience Network, which created the original Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. The brief was to “bring the port back into the heart of the city” (Erasmus Bridge links the two) and create an entertaining attraction in the process. Project director Reinder Holtkamp says he was asked to break down some of the myths that surround the port, and perhaps inspire a few more people to take up a career there, but that he was given a “total free hand” in how to do it.
With an annual throughput of more than 400 million tonnes, Rotterdam is by far the largest freight/passenger seaport in Europe, and the gateway to more than 500 million consumers. Situated on the North Sea, it streches over 40km in length – making it larger than Rotterdam itself. This is highlighted perfectly at the Rotterdam Port Experience, where guests can walk over a giant aerial photograph in the lobby. They can also learn more about plans for Maasvlakte 2, a second port that will consolidate Rotterdam’s position as one of the world’s leading cargo terminals.
The biggest challenge for the team from Kranendonk was creating a sense of scale in a building that is much smaller than the car park next to it, or indeed Erasmus Bridge itself. The illusion begins when guests take an elevator ride, engineered by Lagotronics, to the top of the “Rotterdam’s tallest building,” a fictional 200-storey tower that exists purely for the purpose of storytelling. At the “top” they alight onto the Panorama Deck and take a trip around the perimeter in dark ride vehicles supplied by ETF. Looking down, passengers catch a glimpse of the city in miniature – but what they are actually seeing are reflections of model buildings directly below them.
More about the port, its history and the items that pass through it can be discovered on a collection of touch screen terminals, timelines and interactive games. Young guests, for example, can check the contents of various containers by scanning the barcodes on the outside, or go for a virtual bike ride through the habour and learn to steer a ship.
The highlight of the tour is the Harbor Ride (pictured below), a high speed simulator journey where the action is viewed on a high-resolution monitors in front of each two-seater capsule. Sixteen miniature lifeboats are used in total, as riders race across the water, shooting past container ships, under bridges and over the heads of cranes and workers. This Harbor Ride was easily the most expensive part of RPE to create, built to order by a team of five suppliers comprising E2M (design and engineering), West End (boat design and manufacturing), Design Electro Products (show control), Cruden (system integration) and Twain (ride film).
In total, over 70 Dutch firms were involved in creating the Port Experience, which opened on December 1 after a development period of just 12 months. While the attraction looks good, visitor numbers to date have been disappointing. The irony is that while Erasmus Bridge is a very visible Rotterdam landmark, it swamps everything in its shadow, meaning RPE is practically invisible to many passers-by. Kranendonk Experience Network hopes to work with the attraction’s owners to improve this.
Nevertheless, Holtkamp expects things to pick up once the tourist season arrives. He is confident the attraction can meet its annual attendance target of 200,000. The Spido ferry terminal next door, for example, attracts 400,000 visitors a year and the two already share ticketing facilities.