Container climbing with Walter

Introduction - Sunday 18 July 1999 we explored the new harbour sites with Walter. One of our actions was climbing a stack of containers that were stacked 8 high, I guess 18 meters.

Why those stacks ? - During the economic crisis in the far-east more goods were exported than imported. This lead to an imbalance in container-flows, and a surplus of empty containers in the Rotterdam harbour. These had to be stored somewhere and even less-secured sites were used. The standard sites have watchmen, barbed-wire fences and dogs. But this was just a large, unused parking space on the Eemhavenstraat (harbour 2670).

Here your'e looking south-east towards the power-station at Heyplaat and the KPN microwave tower at Waalhaven. It's 199m high and in a distance of 3km.

The words on the containers are: MORFLOT and LATVIAN. Probably east-european goods.

Canyon landscape - According to the labels on the containers they can be stacked 8-high. This maximum height was indeed used, and the containers were stacked in long rows with only 2m between the rows. It created a canyon-like landscape, and down on the ground it was quite dark. We were completely invisible down there.

Route-planning and climbing - As you can see there are three types of containers: with horizontal grooves, wth vertical grooves, and with no grooves at all. The last type is almost unclimbable. The back-sides of containers have no hinges and are also unclimbable. We really had to search for a suitable route upwards. Climbing the containers is quite easy - 5b/5c. The hinges are perfect hand-holds. You can lock your feet in the spaces behind the hinges. We secured ourselves by attaching slings to the hinges and then clipping into the slings.

Scary - Although the climbing was easy I've never felt so insecure. I didn't trust the stack-structure and didn't know if it was really stable. Also I didn't know if the holds weren't rusted through. And lastly I feared that one of the doors would open and would pinch my fingers. I felt even more insecure than when climbing trees in the wind. Now I think that these fears were unfonded - containers are meant to be stacked this high, and the doors are designed to stay closed.

The view from the top - Here you're looking west into the 1st Eemhaven. On the right you can see the high chimney of the Shell refinery. I can't tell you much more of this area. It's still unexplored territory for me.

After three years I'm still curious about new views, and excited. How will the city look from here? Which landmarks will be visible? How far will I see?

It's a simple - but intense - delight.

Here you're looking the other way - northeast - towards the Marconiplein, 3km distant. You can see the three office-buildings housing The Rotterdam Port Authority, The Municipal Building Authority and the AON-Hudig insurance company. They're 95m high. The chimney belongs to the Eneco power-station.
Coming down - It was difficult to find a solid anchor for rappelling. The containers have a lot of suitable holes, but most of these have sharp edges. In the end we used one of the handles that close the container-doors. And still I didn't trust it completely. But all went well and I took this self-portrait with the delayd action shutter. Yes - it was a very warm summer evening. No - we didn't use the ladder. I put it there for symbolic reasons, just like the skyscraper picture.

When I told my wife what I had done she was horrified, and I was horrified that she was horrified (get me?). She became really angry with me and told me she didn't want to have sleepless nights because of my stupid adventures.

Well, I won't be repeating sthis adventure soon. Last week (june 2000) I checked the site during our metro-expo. All the containers were gone. I assume the economic crisis in the east is over.

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2000 Petr Kazil - This page was written during the final of Euro 2000 - France-Italy 2:1