So far, Rotterdam never attracted a car factory, but everything soft of a car – handlebars, head supports and dashboard – could well be manufactured at Maasvlakte. Since mid 2003, the largest plant of propylene oxide, raw material for synthetic foam, and styrene monomer has been established in this area. Early nineties of the last century, Jos Benders – at the time managing director of Arco Chemical in the Botlek-area – made the first design for such a plant. His colleagues at Fos-sur-Mer (the oil and chemical harbour of Marseille), Rostock and Antwerp did the same. They all aimed at proving that their respective ports were the best for the needed investments. The Arco top management, however, was more in favour of Houston. In the final stage of decision making, the ‘battle’ about the ‘place to be’ was between Houston and Rotterdam. The scales tipped towards Rotterdam, because of the good performance of the Botlek plant, and the situation of the port as a hub of the Westeuropean chemical industry. The newbuilding plans had to be revised, however, when Arco Chemical was taken over by Lyondell. The new owner wanted the investment of about one billion Euros be overhauled completely. It could well mean postponement or even cancellation. Benders, however, has never doubted a moment about the design of the plant to become reality, he later told the press.
In his own modest way Benders could convince his new American bosses, that the plants in Rotterdam were of the most efficient ones of the Lyondell group, and that Maasvlakte was the proper location for newbuilding. After adjustment of the plans, and the establishment of a joint-venture with the German-based Bayer, the go-ahead for the plant was given for the second time. At the same time, an investment scheme for a butanedioic plant of Lyondell’s progressed. This plant in the Botlek-area is considered to be the largest of its kind in the world. Both decisions to invest almost two billion Euros in total, made Rotterdam ‘the key to the future’ of Lyondell’s, as President & Chief Executive Dan F. Smith once put it. At the time, Lyondell revealed that profit margins would be substantial when producing propylene oxide, styrene monomer, and butanedioic. The plant at Maasvlakte is Lyondell’s 11th propylene oxide plant, hence the indication PO-11. In the Summer of 2003, the plant started producing on a trial base. Jos Benders – the Rotterdam man from Limburg – had achieved two times that the investment should be made, in spite of all opposition. In the mean time he was appointed MD Manufacturing Europe, responsible for Fos-sur-Mer as well, which was his largest competitor a decade before. In the ranks of Port Men of the Year Benders is the first representative of the petrochemical industry in Rotterdam. The chemical sector is considered to be one of the cornerstones of the port of Rotterdam, in terms of activities and of added value.
author Nico de Vries/translator Janny Kok
BORN IN MUNSTERGELEEN (LIMBURG, THE NETHERLANDS) IN 1944
1965 STUDY CIVIL ENGENEERING HOGESCHOOL LIMBURG
1967 FIRST JOB WITH VAN BERKEL ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS
1971 STUDY PROCESSAUTOMATION HOGESCHOOL ROTTERDAM
1974 START WORKING WITH OXIRANE CHEMIE IN ROTTERDAM-BOTLEK (IN 1980 OWNED BY ARCO CHEMICAL AND IN 1998 BY LYONDELL), MD LOCATION
1991 TRAINING MANUFACTURING MANAGEMENT AT INSEAD IN FONTAINEBLEAU
1995 MD OF THE MAASVLAKTE PROJECT AND MD MANUFACTURING BENELUX (LOCATIONS ROTTERDAM AND RIEME IN BELGIUM)
1998 APPOINTED MD MANUFACTURING EUROPE (LOCATIONS ROTTERDAM AND FOS-SUR-MER IN FRANCE)