Nowadays Rotterdam is a vital part of the economy of the Netherlands. The Port of Rotterdam, the largest port in the world with a total throughput of about 300 million metric tons a year provides a solid base for industry in and around the Rotterdam area. Its population is about 575000, which makes it one of the largest cities in the Netherlands, but the number of people that work in the Rotterdam area or are otherwise economically dependent of it exceeds that number by far. The density of population is among the highest in the Netherlands, exceeding 4000 per square kilometer. Shipping, storage and forwarding are of course among the most important activities in the region, but the port of Rotterdam has also created a large chemical industry, which is fully dependent upon the transport facilities for the inflow of crude oil and the shipping of the various refined end products. Large petrochemical plants have sprung up, especially on the south bank of the Maas. These plants are in operation 24 hours a day. The development of Europoort ('Euro gate') started in 1957. A large complex of ports and industrial areas was created between Rotterdam and the entry to the North Sea. When more space was needed, the Maasvlakte ('Maas Flats') was created. By means of dikes, dams and sand deposits the coast line was altered to include many square kilometers of newly created land, where the Petroleum Harbors, container terminals, ore terminals and the Maasvlakte power plant are located. An interesting feature is the 'disaster area', a training complex where fire brigades train to cope with large-scale industrial accidents. The complex includes a grounded tanker that is set on fire several times a day. The name Europoort suggests that Rotterdam wanted to become the gateway to Europe. By 1963 this suggestion had become outdated, because in that year Rotterdam could claim to be the largest port in the world, a record that it still holds. In fact, the Berge Stahl, a 365000 ton ore carrier, is fully dependent on the port of Rotterdam, since this is the only port on the European continent that this ship (with its 23m/75ft draught) can access. After the flood in 1953 a large project was initiated to prevent such floodings in the future. This project, the 'Delta plan', involved stronger and higher dikes and numerous flood barriers. The latest of those flood barriers to be completed was the storm surge barrier in the Nieuwe Waterweg near Hoek van Holland. Two enormous doors mounted on swing arms can be used to close off the Nieuwe Waterweg, should storm and high water require so in order to protect the country from flooding. Normally the doors are open, so as not to impede the flow of ships through the Nieuwe Waterweg. Building and development have become a way of life for Rotterdam. The city has continued to grow, and it shows no signs of slowing down. And although this constant increase of population, urbanization and development all breed their own problems, Rotterdam is ready for the next millennium. As the economic heart of the Netherlands, with a population heading towards 600000, it had better be ready.