The Netherlands from above – E3/10 – The patchwork of the Netherlands


This is story of the Netherlands as it’s
seldom seen. This is our country as seen from the sky. If you really want to know
what everyday life looks like… at times chaotic, at others very organized… then take a look from
a spectacular new perspective. In this episode: the hungry jaws of Europe. A delta of rivers and ports… that together make up
an intricate clockwork… in order to serve 500 million people
at precisely the right time. How did this delta shape us? Sixteen million people on a tiny piece of ground,
seen from the sky. This is ‘The Netherlands From Above’. There was a time
when our country barely existed. It may well have been
the worst place on Earth. A land that battled the waters on a daily basis. Only crabs and a few lost birds… could survive here. And yet, our ancestors figured… that this could one day
be a very special place. To live, to work and to celebrate. But it needed a lot of work. In this episode of ‘The Netherlands
From Above’: the hungry jaws of Europe. 500 million consumers, from Breda to Berlin,
from Prague to Vienna… that want Brazilian coffee
at precisely the same time each day… as well as jeans from the United States
and computers from China. How did we transform
the disadvantages of a boggy delta… into an advantage… that turned our ports and our transportation
into a precision clockwork? Saturday, 5 March 2011. That orange dot is a container ship… heading to its destination:
the Waalhaven of Rotterdam. A highway of ships loaded with containers,
oil and automobiles. The flashing lights are waiting ships. Hoek van Holland. Every day,
150 ships enter the New Waterway here. The green dots are dredgers… that continuously deepen the channel… and supply the Second Maasvlakte with sand. Once it reaches port,
each ship becomes part… of a much larger machine. This is the beating heart
of what was once that boggy delta. The Kop van Zuid. This is where they decide at what time
each ship can enter the harbor. Every five minutes,
twenty-four hours a day… a ship is piloted into the harbor. National harbor master Rene
is the director of this precision clockwork. Last year this port transshipped
430 million tons of goods. They are shipped deep into Europe. It is of huge importance. An average container ship
has a braking distance of 2.5 kilometers. So a day before a ship wants to enter… it must report to these traffic controllers. HVC, over? Each ship is like a floating apartment building… weighing thousands of tons,
and that’s difficult to steer. At this time, there are approximately
400 ships in the harbor. Every five minutes, a sea-going vessel comes in
and one leaves A ship only enters the channel when we are sure… that the berth is free
and tugboats are available. Only then is the ship given permission… because once a ship is in the channel
it is difficult to turn around. To prevent accidents from happening… these giants may not meet each other
in the New Waterway… let alone turn around. 32 meters wide, 200 meters long… and it rises 35 meters above sea level. This ship is carrying 6000 automobiles. An apartment building of 14 stories. Because of their extreme height… these ships are difficult to control. In spite of weighing 50,000 tons,
this ship is very sensitive to the wind. Today the wind force is six. And of all ships,
this one has to pass under the Caland Bridge… to unload at the car terminal. The Caland Bridge. A bottleneck where thousands of lorries…. freight trains and ships full of cars
cross each other every week. Nothing must go wrong here. That is why pilots and tugboats
take over the last part of the trip. These large ships are easy to steer
on the high sea… because they travel at a high speed. When they enter the harbor,
the speed is reduced… making them difficult to maneuver. That’s when the tugboats come in
to push them to the quay. And certainly with high winds.
Car carriers catch a lot of wind… so it is difficult to maneuver them
to the quay. The tugboats push and pull them to it. My brother is the pilot on this ship. I’ve been sailing in the port of Rotterdam
for ten years now. My brother has been a pilot for seven. Two or three times a year
both of us get to bring in a ship. That’s because my father
had his own tugboat. We’re quite used to it. From the moment we could walk
and wear a safety vest, we were on his ship. Every school holiday we would be on his boat. 50,000 tons of steel hanging by a thread. Now it all comes down to the steering capabilities
of the tugboats and the pilot. Good afternoon, Caland Bridge. One, three, five. This is the hinterland. The boggy delta has been transformed… into a six-lane highway of rivers. The Pannerdense Kop… where the Rhine and the IJssel split up. The Maas. The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal The Merwede. The Waal. Almost all used to be scary swirling rivers… that were constantly changing direction. Now tamed and forced into proper lanes… in order to transport
as many goods as possible. Football shoes. Toys. Laptops. Toothbrushes. Car parts. Wine. Oranges. Plastic coffee cups. Wood. T-shirts. TVs. These goods from China, the United States
and other distant lands… are unloaded, processed
and repackaged on a tight schedule. Now comes the final leg of the journey: To our shops and the rest of Europe. Over motorways or waterways. You don’t stop and think about it,
but because things run smoothly here… we never see empty shelves
when we go shopping. The Netherlands has become
a transit country. Things that come into
the hungry jaws of Rotterdam… must find their way as quickly as possible… in order to be delivered to the rest Europe. In 24 hours, lorries within a radius
of 500 kilometers…. can reach 150 million consumers. But capacity on the roads has reached its limits. Barendrecht. Like the belly of a whale… where finished products
and raw materials wait patiently… to be distributed in Belgium,
France and Spain. And Budapest. Vienna. And nearby in the Ruhr district. But railway systems too are becoming overloaded. It is over our rivers… that 500 million consumers can be served. And this route is nowhere near its limit. As long as we get enough rain… and rivers are deep enough. Teak tables for Mainz. Telephones. Tooth picks. Carpets for Prague. Underpants.
Tea for Frankfurt. Windshield wipers. Furniture… And they want it faster and faster. It is a race against the clock,
twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Yes, faster and faster. Whatever the weather,
the ships can’t wait… because time is money. Nowadays, everything is money. With less workers, but faster. A yard as big a 544 football fields. 30,000 containers. By tomorrow, 10,000 of them will
have been moved, shipped and refilled. Almost entirely automated. Only the system knows what’s in them… and where it needs to go. Unmanned, computer-driven lorries find their way… thanks to loops under the surface of the road. Without crashing into each other
or driving into the water. Once in a while a real human
drives among them. But he also does everything
the system tells him to do. I select a task. AC-22, let’s see… We have to go to AC-70
to pick up a twenty footer. And transport it to Block Group 8. If I drive diligently,
I can move about 150 containers. Here we are. I don’t know what’s in them.
It could be anything. TVs, they could contain shovels. Shoes, left shoes or right shoes. To avoid theft. A container from China will only have left shoes. If they are stolen, they only have left shoes.
Of no use to anyone. The right shoes are in another container. But which of the 30,000 containers
has the right shoes? Only the system knows. Six layers of containers
on the ship’s deck… ten stories below deck. A total of 7000 containers
on this ship alone. Depending on its weight and destination… each container is assigned a spot
with mathematical precision. Too many heavy containers
on one spot… and the ship could break or capsize. The trick is to keep the spreader
from swaying. If I do it too fast, it will start to sway… and I would never get it in a cell. So I have to control that. Like in a car:
if you don’t drive, you’ll go straight… and you’ll hit another car.
It’s the same thing. If you don’t position it
properly in the cell… and you veer it anyway,
it can get stuck. And then you have a problem. Let me put down the container. There could be cars in it, or beer. Everything the Netherlands doesn’t have
is imported. There could be stowaways in there,
you never know. There’s a possibility that
I’ve transshipped illegal immigrants. I must have. You regularly hear about
people getting on board… and hiding in a container. So if I happen to be operating the crane
and I pick up that container… There are no locks on them,
only a seal. They can remove it
and then they can go into the container. That’s when you hear those terrible stories
on the news: Dead people found in a container. Not enough air or not enough food. Yes. Hundreds of Asian cars are ready… to be raced off the boat. A real man’s job. I unload ships. I drive cars off ships. Without leaving a scratch on them. It means driving a car off the ship
and parking it in the yard. We make sure the ship is empty on time. It all follows a strict pattern. The business cars in subdued grey. And the station wagons in champagne grey… sky blue metallic, creamy white
and camellia red pearl. Dutch mountains in a lunar landscape. 36 million tons of bulk. Iron ore from Brazil… on its way to Germany to make steel
for the manufacture of new cars. Coal from Colombia and Australia
for our power plants. But nearly 70 percent of it goes to Germany. Long ago, thousands of people
with soot-covered faces worked here. But now the human factor has all but disappeared. Crude oil from Nigeria, Libya
or even from the tar sands of Canada. Through kilometers of pipelines… flow crude oil and chemicals… destined for the cracking process in refineries… and turned into butter, plastic and petrol. Hopefully, someone still knows… where each pipe goes to and where it comes from. A Boeing 747 would fit into an empty oil tank. Once it’s filled, it contains enough petrol… for 9000 cars to ride in circles non-stop
for a whole year. In the middle of all this machinery
and yards… where people are increasingly rare… you could forget that this area is the second
largest natural reserve in the Netherlands. And that’s where danger lurks. Rabbits. Why do I shoot such a little creature? But this grass field is kept short
not by mowing… but exclusively by rabbits. You should see
the amount of rabbit droppings here. It is covered in them. Here as well, it’s like a meeting place. If we don’t so something about it,
it can cause so much damage… that dykes will start to erode at high tide. And then they could collapse. There are many tanks here. They have built earthen dams around them… because if something happens to the tank,
the dam must make sure… that the liquid from the tank stays within the dam. It is our job
to make sure the presence of rabbits… around the tanks is kept to a minimum. Otherwise the dams will become unstable… and could collapse under the pressure. The liquid from the tanks would then flood
the area and we don’t want that. Fresh droppings. Fresh and old. We need to take care of this. With his gun, his dog and his ferret… Kees rules over the dams… and drives rabbits from their holes
to prevent bigger disasters. Hey. Somebody’s got to do it. Yes. This area is 17,500 hectares. Including the water. I think this is the largest hunting ground
in the Netherlands. Each year, Kees shoots hundreds of rabbits… to allow the precision clockwork
to operate unfettered. About 15,000 rabbits live in the port. Come here. But larger wildlife also feels at home here. Recently, the transshipment company Broekman
called me… because there was a buck walking
among the Maseratis. He was not amused by that,
they are expensive cars. Me and my son went to take a look. We managed to catch the young buck
and took it… to De Slufter
and we still see it running around there. So he has found himself a nice home. Utrecht. The Oude Gracht Dug in the early Middle Ages… to connect with the river Lek. Utrecht became a metropolis
thanks to trade. And its harbor
was one of the largest in the country. So much money was made there
that they were able to build the Dom Tower. Hanseatic League cities. Zutphen. Deventer. But Amsterdam as well. They all owe their riches
and their typical structure… to their ports and the ‘tamed’ rivers. All those ports and rivers
have made us what we are today: Wealthy, but also hardworking people. One of the cogs in the precision clockwork. A system. All those average people… that do their jobs each day. And they do it to promptly serve… 500 million people. It is in our blood and our genes. The Netherlands is a large system of ports,
rivers and canals. And the newest port is already
under construction… to allow even bigger ships
carrying more goods… to moor in the hungry jaws. As long as all the shelves are filled. Wooden chairs. Coats.
Desk accessories. Winter tires. Books. Oranges. Handbags.