Work starts on biggest lock

By Sandy Guthrie22 November 2011

A project to build what is said to be the biggest lock in the world has been given the official go-ahead this week at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium.

The €340 million lock is due to open in 2016. The project will see 255 people working daily on the lock, which is the second on Antwerp's Left Bank.

Flemish Minister for Mobility & Public Works, Hilde Crevits, with 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, launched the project, which will be 50% financed by the EIB.

The work on the Deurganck lock will be carried out by an ad hoc consortium consisting of five firms - Jan De Nul, CEI-De Meyer, Betonac, Herbosch-Kiere and Antwerpse Bouwwerken.

The contractors started the preparatory work on the site on 24 October. The site was cleared and topographical measurements 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 start 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 design of the new lock will be based on that of the nearby Berendrecht lock, which currently holds the title of biggest lock in the world. Like the Berendrecht lock, it will be 500m long and 68m wide.

The new lock - at 17.8m below the local datum level - will be deeper than Berendrecht. Of the 9.1 million m³ of earth to be excavated, just under a third will be reused to backfill behind the quayside walls. A total of 795,000m³ of reinforced concrete will be needed - said to be enough to cover a football pitch to a height of 106m. The precision engineering required is such that the four lock gates must close perfectly and the mechanism for the bridges that will open must be accurate to within a millimetre.

The construction of the Deurganck dock lock is designed to improve maritime access to the economic hub of the Port of Antwerp. It is one of the Flemish government's key projects.

The Port of Antwerp is a major hub of the EU's new core network for transport, the backbone of the Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) Network. The European Investment Bank said it recognised the importance of the maritime sector in the development of the TEN-T Network.

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 was deemed essential.

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