Start an Import-Export Company in Rotterdam: Steps & Documents

Looking for the perfect place to set up your import-export company? Register an import-export company in Rotterdam with the help of our company formation experts of OnDemand International.


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    start an import-export company in rotterdam

    Are you an ambitious entrepreneur seeking new horizons for your import-export business? Look no further than Rotterdam, Netherlands. One of the main trading cities in Europe, Rotterdam provides top-notch infrastructure and a business-friendly atmosphere that supports import-export enterprises. Rotterdam, the bustling port city in the Netherlands, beckons international entrepreneurs and investors seeking a strategic location for their import-export businesses. Renowned for its robust infrastructure, favourable business climate, and global connectivity, Rotterdam empowers companies to seamlessly navigate the complexities of international trade.

    In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore why Rotterdam is the ideal destination for your venture, the business activities permitted, the necessary documents for registration, and the key steps to establish your import-export company in Rotterdam.

    Why Set Up an Import-Export Company in Rotterdam?

    • Strategic Location: Nestled at the heart of Europe, Rotterdam boasts the continent’s largest port, strategically positioned for efficient logistics and swift access to major European markets. It connects companies to over 500 ports worldwide, enabling smooth import and export processes.
    • Business-Friendly Environment: The Netherlands, and Rotterdam in particular, fosters a welcoming environment for international businesses. The government actively supports foreign investment with streamlined procedures, a skilled multilingual workforce, and a stable political climate.
    • Competitive Advantage: Rotterdam offers a multitude of benefits that give your import-export company a competitive edge:
    • Favorable Tax Regime: The Netherlands boasts a competitive corporate tax rate and various tax incentives for foreign businesses.
    • Advanced Infrastructure: Rotterdam’s world-class port infrastructure, coupled with efficient transportation networks, ensures smooth and cost-effective movement of goods.
    • Highly Skilled Workforce: The Netherlands is known for its highly educated and multilingual workforce, facilitating effective communication and smooth business operations.
    • Extensive Trade Agreements: As a member of the European Union, the Netherlands benefits from numerous free trade agreements, reducing trade barriers and opening doors to lucrative markets.

    Business Activities Permitted for Import-Export Companies in Rotterdam

    Import-export companies in Rotterdam enjoy a wide range of permissible business activities, including:

    1. Importing and exporting goods: Rotterdam’s port facilitates the movement of various commodities, including raw materials, consumer goods, and industrial products, enabling import-export companies to trade across diverse sectors.
    2. Warehousing and distribution: With its extensive logistics infrastructure, Rotterdam offers ample warehousing and distribution facilities, allowing import-export companies to efficiently store and distribute goods to domestic and international markets.
    3. Customs brokerage: Import-export companies can provide customs brokerage services, assisting clients with customs clearance, documentation, and compliance procedures, streamlining the import-export process.
    4. Freight forwarding: Rotterdam serves as a major hub for freight forwarding services, facilitating the movement of goods via sea, air, road, and rail transport modes.
    5. Trade consulting: Import-export companies can offer trade consulting services, advising clients on market trends, regulatory requirements, and international trade strategies to optimize their import-export operations.

    Documents Needed to Register an Import-Export Company in Rotterdam, Netherlands

    Before setting up an import-export company in Rotterdam, entrepreneurs must ensure they have the necessary documentation in place. Key documents required for registration include:

    • Proof of identity: Valid identification documents, such as passports or identity cards, for all company shareholders and directors.
    • Business plan: A thorough business plan includes the goals of the organization, target markets, goods and services, marketing plans, and projected costs.
    • Company registration forms: Completed registration forms, including the application for Chamber of Commerce registration and tax identification number (BTW nummer).
    • Articles of association: Article of association is a legal document outlining the management, operational processes, and structure of the business.
    • Proof of address: Evidence of the company’s registered address in Rotterdam, such as a lease agreement or utility bill.
    • Bank reference: A reference letter from a bank confirming the company’s financial standing and creditworthiness.
    • VAT registration: Registration for Value Added Tax (VAT) with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst).
    • Import-export license: Depending on the nature of the business, import-export companies may require specific licenses or permits from relevant authorities.

    Key Steps to Set Up an Import-Export Company in Rotterdam

    Setting up an import-export company in Rotterdam involves several key steps, including:

    Choose a Business Structure 

    Select the most suitable legal structure for your import-export business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (BV), or branch office.

    Choose a Name for Your Business 

    Select a name for your business that captures the essence of your brand, is memorable to potential customers, and expresses your brand identity.

    Register Your Business with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce

    Complete the enrollment process with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel) to obtain an official company registration number (KvK-nummer).

    Acquire the Required Licenses and Permits

    Determine the detailed permits and licenses required for your import-export activities and obtain them from relevant authorities, such as the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst) and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

    Open a Business Bank Account 

    Create a business bank account with a trustworthy financial institution in order to efficiently handle the money and commercial dealings of your firm.


    Rotterdam, Netherlands, offers unparalleled opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to establish and grow their import-export businesses. Rotterdam’s world-class infrastructure, pro-business atmosphere, and strategic location make it the perfect entry point to the world market. Through the establishment of an import-export business in Rotterdam, business owners can take advantage of profitable prospects, broaden their global outreach, and secure sustained prosperity.

    If you’re ready to embark on your import-export journey in Rotterdam, OnDemand International is here to help. As a leading provider of business registration services, we specialise in assisting foreign entrepreneurs with company formation, registration, and compliance in the NetherlandsGet in touch with us right now to maximize the potential of your import-export business in Rotterdam.


    Among the benefits are Rotterdam’s advantageous position, state-of-the-art infrastructure, conducive corporate environment, and connection to international markets through Europe’s biggest port.

    Rotterdam handles a diverse range of commodities, including raw materials, consumer goods, industrial products, and agricultural produce.

    Depending on the company’s structure, supporting papers, and legal requirements, the registration procedure usually takes a few weeks.

    Yes, Rotterdam caters to the needs of both startups and established companies, offering scalable infrastructure, supportive services, and ample opportunities for growth and expansion.