Not many centuries ago, seafaring Dutchmen of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), transported elephants from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to be sold in India, in addition to carrying huge cargoes of spices regularly. Over the centuries, the Dutch have become specialists in such jumbo-sized transport jobs - whether across oceans, by rail and road networks, by air, or indeed, a combination of these modes of transport. Logistics and transport services are a Dutch speciality, and their expertise is much sought-after in China, especially Shanghai, which is the next port of call for Jochum Haakma, the Netherlands Consul-General in Hong Kong. Having opened many doors for Dutch expertise in transport and logistics in Hong Kong, Mr Haakma is moving to Shanghai as Consul-General. He says he will be able to proudly tell his Chinese hosts that the Netherlands was recently described as the best place in the world to do business. A study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked the Netherlands ahead of the US, and gave top marks for the country's political environment, policies towards private enterprise, liberal foreign trade and exchange regime, and the quality of labour. Mr Haakma says he could not have expected to be posted to a more exciting city, considering the economic progress and scale of infrastructure development in Shanghai. One of the biggest projects in Shanghai, the US$12 billion deep-sea port, will be benefiting from the Dutch touch. 'The Netherlands was invited by China's State Planning Commission to give a second expert opinion on the development of the deep-sea port project,' Mr Haakma says. The Netherlands also has a hand in the Yangtze River Basin Masterplan, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed back in 1996. The plan is for the 'integration of multimodal transport in the Yangtze River Basin and delta', Mr Haakma points out. It envisages a vast, efficient transport network. Sino-Dutch bilateral co-operation also encompasses other areas, such as training in transport and logistics. In partnership with the Waterborne Transport Institute in Beijing and the Shanghai Port Authority, the NEA - an independent consultancy specialising in traffic, transport and logistics research and training - has set up the Sino-Dutch Multimodal Transport Training Centre. The Rotterdam Port Authority and the Shipping and Transport College, have also collaborated on the initiative. The first group to be trained received diplomas from Tineke Netelenbos, the Dutch Minister for Transport, Public Works and Water Management, during a visit last year. Mrs Netelenbos also led a delegation of representatives of 25 companies operating in various sectors during her visit. The Dutch involvement in this sphere is crucial to the country's foreign trade. After all, without transport, trade will not be possible. Besides, there are vast untapped opportunities to sell the country's know-how and experience as export and import volumes increase. Take container transport, for example. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific forecast in a study that by 2011, China 'will be clearly the world's largest container market, outstripping the US in both imports and exports'. It also pointed out that intra-Asian trade will continue to outperform global container growth. With such challenging prospects awaiting in Shanghai, Mr Haakma sees the Shanghai assignment as an opportunity to cherish. The network of industry executives and decision-makers he has built up in Hong Kong will also make the move that much more exciting, he says.