How does one move 14,000 gold bars and 1,000 boxes of gold coins across the city without losing anything along the way? This might sound like the set-up of a joke, but it was the very serious challenge facing the Dutch central bank in Amsterdam as it shifted some 200 tonnes of gold worth around €10bn (£9.1bn) to a new vault outside the city.
The result was a meticulously and closely guarded operation that included an army and police escort with motorcycle outriders and helicopters following overhead. The slow overnight convoy carrying the precious cargo took some 22 hours to travel 20km (12 miles) away at the weekend.
The gold was transported from the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) headquarters in central Amsterdam to a vault in the nearby city of Haarlem. The shipment, which included bills worth another €4.5bn (£9.1bn), “went smoothly and safely,” the Royal Dutch Military Police said in a statement afterwards.
The DNB later released a slick, fast-cutting video of the operation in the style of Guy Ritchie, showing armed guards with masks and body armour, fork-lift trucks, hovering helicopters, and thick vault doors with heavy cogs.
The DNB said it needed to move the gold as the tight security measures needed to protect the vault in the Amsterdam headquarters increasingly interfered with regular staff and visitor accessibility. The gold will eventually be moved again in 2023 to a Ministry of Defence site called Camp New Amsterdam, to be built in Zeist some 55km (33 miles) south of the capital.
The DNB describes gold as “the perfect piggy bank,” and “the anchor of trust for the financial system.” If the system collapses, as it did during the 2008 financial crisis, gold stocks can be used to build it up again, it says. “A bar of gold always retains its value, crisis or no crisis. This creates a sense of security. A central bank's gold stock is therefore regarded as a symbol of solidity,” the DNB says.
The gold removed from the vault is just one-third of the DNB’s total gold stock, with the other stocks in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, the Bank of England in London, and the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.
The Netherlands has world’s ninth biggest national gold reserves, some 612.5kg. It is worth some €26.7bn (£24.3bn) and accounts for 70.2 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange reserves. This is still way behind the United States, with 8,1335kg in gold reserves, and Germany, with 3,362.4kg, but more than the UK’s relatively modest 310.3kg, some 11 per cent of the British foreign exchange reserves.
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