The dissertation questions how and why the transition from coal to oil affected the economic relations between the Port of Rotterdam and its German hinterland between 1945 and 1975. From the 1880s onwards, Rotterdam had become the main seaport of the German industrial heartland in the Ruhr area. The transition from coal to oil in the 1950s and 1960s required a new infrastructure – pipelines – to supply the expanding West German market with crude oil. Despite its intimate transport relations to the German hinterland, Rotterdam faced competition from other ports. The West German federal government favoured a German port over Rotterdam, whereas multinational oil companies pursued an integrated Trans-European pipeline system starting in the French port of Marseille. However, the lack of European political and economic integration ultimately ended the Trans-European pipeline project. The Rotterdam port benefited from the outcome because a pipeline connection was established to the German hinterland as a result of the failure of the Trans-European pipeline plan. This gave Rotterdam a captive hinterland in West Germany, a position it still enjoys today. The thesis highlights how transnational economic relations are threatened by economic and technological change and are conditioned by the tensions between national politics and international business. The study uses a business historical approach and combines a transnational case study of Royal Dutch Shell with Dutch and German public archival material.

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H.A.M Kleman
Erasmus University Rotterdam
This research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The study is part of a larger research project Outport and Hinterland. Rotterdam Business and Ruhr Industry, 1870-2010.
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Boon, M. (2014, December 19). Oil Pipelines, Politics and International Business. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from