ROTTERDAM - The Nieuwe Waterweg is officially in use. The first sea steamer, de Richard Young, sailed successfully from the port of Rotterdam to the sea. The ship had a draft of almost three meters.

Today is the 9th of March, in the presence of many interested parties and experts, the first sea steamer, de Richard Young, capt. G. Rivers, van de Great Eastern Railway Company, sailing between Rotterdam and Harwich, steamed to the sea through the new Maas estuary. The ship had 29 decimeters of draft and found plenty of water. ”

(Algemeen Handelsblad, 11-03-1872)

The Richard Young is a ship from the Rotterdam-Harwich line.


The new passage was badly needed. Twenty years ago, sailing ships were mainly active in shipping. But since 1850 there are more and more steamships in service. These ships have a greater draft.

With the construction of the Suez Canal, Rotterdam was in danger of losing the battle for international trade by sea.

Over the past century, Rotterdam has had more and more problems with accessibility for ships. There were many small passages in the area that were threatening to silt up. The estuary of the Maas was even so silted up, that 1829 the Canal by Voorne was taken into use.

Shortly afterwards, a sandbank was created off the coast of Hellevoetsluis, nicknamed Pampus. One has in 1850 considered dredging the sandbank. But that would hardly solve the problem, because the canal could not handle the larger sea-going vessels either.


A definitive solution was already being considered in the 1950s. In 1855 the Council for Water Management was established, with engineer Pieter Caland, among others. He soon came up with the plan to dig through the Hoek van Holland to the sea. To prevent further silting up, two dams should be built in the sea. The whole project would 6,3 million guilders. A very significant amount (converted to current standards, 85 million euros, DD).

Political support was not forthcoming, however. The proposal was made in 1860 discussed in the House of Representatives, but before the responsible cabinet minister could answer, the cabinet fell. It lasted till 1862 until the Thorbecke cabinet guided the plan through the House of Representatives and the Senate by an overwhelming majority.


The construction of the four-kilometer-long canal took almost ten years in total. In 1863 the first works started. There was not much pace at the time, because many farmers had to be bought out. Only after two years did the first spade go into the ground.

To prevent the shipping channel from silting up, a dam of two kilometers was built in the sea. That was supposed to counteract the effect of the North Sea.

Engineer Caland had two long dams built along the fairway. Then the area in between was excavated. In the final stage, four years ago, the last sand was removed, so that the water flowed into the Nieuwe Waterweg.

The first fishing vessels sailed through the Nieuwe Waterweg two years ago, but for larger ships, we had to wait until today.

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Simultaneously with the permission for the Nieuwe Waterweg, the government gave in 1862 permission for the construction of the North Sea Canal. Amsterdam also suffered from congested waterways in combination with ever-increasing ships.

The North Sea Canal has, in contrast to the Nieuwe Waterweg, a number of locks. This water connection is not ready yet.


The fact that the first ship has finally sailed through the Nieuwe Waterweg, is also a relief for the people behind the project. In the past period there were many questions, especially about the silting up.

“Among the many bad news, that have recently appeared from all sides across our Nieuwe Waterweg, even the least infidel sometimes began to shrink their fear, or not the view of a good road to the sea became more and more distant. ”

(Algemeen Handelsblad, 11-03-1872)

Hoe ging het verder?

But as positive as one is on 09 maart 1872 was, they did not stay long. After only a year it became clear that there was indeed sand displacement in the Nieuwe Waterweg.

Dredging made no sense, according to Caland. This would be a recurring problem. However, it was decided to extend the dams in the sea. That would promote the erosion of the Nieuwe Waterweg. It caused a cost overrun of 6,3 miljoen gulden, the same amount as was paid for the entire project.

Five years later, the problem had not yet been resolved. Some engineers advocated a lock system, but that could prevent Caland. The Waterway was widened from 225 naar 400 meter. The Waterway was also dredged. The costs thus increased by another 6,5 miljoen gulden.

Als in 1880 the problems have not yet been resolved, ships divert to Amsterdam, where the North Sea Canal has now been completed. One of the first ships of the later Holland-America Line to dock in Amsterdam is, Ironically, the Pieter Caland.

In 1885 the Nieuwe Waterweg is sufficiently deep. The government has until then 36 miljoen gulden (converted to current standards, half a billion euros) put into the project. That was a cost overrun of thirty million guilders.


A Venture - The New Waterway - Prof Van de Ven

History of South Holland - The construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg

Algemeen Handelsblad - 11-03-1872 - Inland