Work starts on lock at Port of Antwerp

In the Port of Antwerp the Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works, Hilde Crevits, European Investment Bank (EIB) President Philippe Maystadt and Chairman of the Antwerp Port Authority’s Board of Directors and Alderman for the Port Marc Van Peel gave the official starting signal on 21 November 2011 for the construction of the second lock on the Left Bank. Over the coming years the new construction project will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Flanders, with 255 people working daily on building the biggest lock in the world. The lock is due to open in 2016 and will cost around EUR 340 million of which 50% will be financed by the EIB. For Ms Crevits, the construction of the new lock is necessary to improve maritime access to the economic hub of the Port of Antwerp. For EIB President Mr Maystadt, the new lock will help to further develop efficient, multimodal and sustainable goods transport, which will benefit not only the Port of Antwerp and Flanders but also Europe.

Importance for Flanders
The construction of the Deurganck dock lock is one of the Flemish Government’s key projects and is in line with the objectives of the 2020 Pact. Flemish seaports must be accessible to meet future demand. “Even at times when substantial savings must be made, a project such as the second lock on the Left Bank is crucial for Flanders. The return on such an investment is reflected in greater maritime, industrial and logistical activity in the Waasland harbour and increasing opportunities for employment locally”, said Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works Hilde Crevits. “This investment confirms what was stated in the World Economic Forum’s latest report, ‘The Global Competiveness Report 2011-2012’, namely that the port infrastructure in Belgium ranks as one of the world’s best. This is being made possible through the Flemish Government’s investment in its ports,” added Ms Crevits.

Importance for Europe and the European Investment Bank (EIB)
The Port of Antwerp is also a major hub of the EU’s new core network for transport, the backbone of the TEN-T network. Like the European Commission, the European Investment Bank recognises the importance of the maritime sector in the development of the Trans-European Transport Network, in order to promote sustainable transport, job creation and economic growth and cohesion in the European Union. Thus the European Commission has emphasised the role of European seaports as “gateways” to the European markets in the new “Transport 2050” strategy for Europe, supported by the “Connecting Europe” Facility.

Seaports play a crucial role as logistical centres and need efficient links with the hinterland. Their development is essential to cope with the ever-increasing volume of goods traffic, both via coastal navigation within Europe and via maritime navigation to and from the rest of the world. Rail and inland navigation must also play a bigger part in transporting goods into the hinterland. “This is a major concern for the European Union, its priority being accentuated by the challenges in the field of climate and energy”, said EIB President Philippe Maystadt. “The new lock in the Port of Antwerp will help to further develop efficient, multimodal and sustainable goods transport, which will benefit not only the Port of Antwerp and Flanders but also Europe", added Mr Maystadt.

Necessary for the port of Antwerp

In recent years the development of the Port of Antwerp has been concentrated on the Left Bank. With a number of important projects planned, such as the lengthening of the Verrebroek dock and the development of the Saeftinghe zone, a second point of access to the sea is essential. “The second lock is key to the further expansion of our port on the Left Bank of the Scheldt”, said Alderman for the Port Marc Van Peel. “With a second lock and the deepening of the Scheldt completed last year, the Antwerp Port Authority is responding in an appropriate manner to the increase in the scale of shipping traffic and we are maintaining our position as the number two in Europe.”

Financing
The cost of the lock and ancillary facilities is estimated at around EUR 340 million. The European Investment Bank, for which this project is an integral part of the Trans-European transport network and the development of sustainable modes of transport, was prepared to finance 50% of the total construction cost, by providing a maximum of EUR 170 million. KBC Bank is also making available a EUR 81 million credit line, with the balance being provided by the Antwerp Port Authority and the Flemish Government.

Location
The new lock will be at the end of the Deurganck dock and will provide the link to the sea between the Scheldt and the Waasland Canal. The lock will give shipping rapid access to all other docks on the Left Bank: the Doel dock, the Verrebroek dock, the Vrasene dock and the North and South Insteek dock. Sint-Antoniusweg is currently located on the site where the lock will be built, as is a dyke, which will disappear when the lock is built. Sint-Antoniusweg will continue – via the planned bridges to the lock – to be a connecting road. While the work on the lock is going on, all kinds of measures will be taken to keep disruption to road traffic to a minimum.

Timescale
The work on the lock will take 53 calendar months and be carried out by an ad hoc consortium consisting of five firms (Jan De Nul, CEI-De Meyer and Betonac, Herbosch-Kiere and Antwerpse Bouwwerken). The contractors started the preparatory work on the site on 24 October 2011. The site was cleared and topographical measurements were made. The excavation work is currently being carried out, and is expected to take until the summer of 2014. From then until the end of 2014 the contractors will be engaged in the concreting work. Throughout the whole of this time, work will be carried out on the steel structures. Work on building the lock itself will commence in the autumn of 2013 and is due to be completed in the spring of 2015. The final dredging work is scheduled from the end of 2014 until the end of 2015, and the lock is due to open at the beginning of 2016.

The biggest lock in the world, in figures
The design of the new lock will be based on that of the Berendrecht lock, which currently holds the title of biggest lock in the world. Like the Berendrecht lock, it will be 500 metres long and 68 metres wide. The new lock – at 17.80 metres below the local datum level – will be deeper than the Berendrecht lock and thus rank as the biggest lock in the world when it opens in 2016. Pulling of this difficult feat will of course be no easy matter. Over the next few years no less than 9.1 million m³ of earth will be excavated. Just under a third of this – 2.7 million m³ to be precise – will be reused to backfill behind the quayside walls. The remaining earth will be used for further filling in of the Doel dock. Some 22 000 tons of structural steel will be used, three times the amount required to build the Eiffel Tower. A total of 795 000 m³ of reinforced concrete will be needed – enough to cover a football pitch to a height of 106 metres. The 57 000 m² of sheet piles that will eventually be used by the contractors would be enough to cover 80 football pitches. Although the dimensions of the lock itself are staggering, the job of building it will require precision engineering. For instance, the four lock gates must close perfectly and the mechanism for the bridges that will open must be accurate to within a millimetre.