Spectacular lifting operation in the Port of Zeebrugge: Lock gate disconnected for renovation

Today, in the Port of  Zeebrugge, a complete lock gate is disconnected, lifted out of the water and transported to the inner harbour. It is a rare piece of craftmanship, as the lock gate weighs more than 2,300 tons and has the dimensions of a quarter of a soccer field (66 m x 11 m x 25 m). The spectacular operation is part of the large-scale renovation of the “Pierre Vandamme” lock, the crucial access to the inner port of Zeebrugge. "We are investing 120 million euros in the “Pierre Vandamme” lock, because we are resolutely opting for growth in Zeebrugge", according to Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works Ben Weyts.

Renovation of 120 million euros

There are two possibilities for vessels to reach the inner harbor of Zeebrugge: via the ‘Visart’ lock and via the ‘Pierre Vandamme’ lock. The ‘Visart’ lock (° 1907) is outdated and no longer meets the needs of today's shipping industry. Therefore, the Flemish Government foresees an investment of 1 billion euros in a new ‘Visart’ lock. The ‘Pierre Vandamme’ lock (° 1984) is very frequently used today, but needs thorough renovation. Flanders is investing about 120 million euros in a phased renovation, which must be completed by the summer of 2023.

Operation takes 19 hours

As part of the renovation, a lock gate is being transported out of the gate chamber today and brought ashore in the inner harbor. It concerns the most seaward gate that is most affected by the tides. The ‘Pierre Vandamme’ lock consists of 2 lock heads, each having 2 roller doors and 2 movable bridges.

A single lock gate weighs more than 2,300 tons and has the dimensions of a quarter of a soccer field  (66m x 11m x 25m). For the operation, the hoisting vessel 'Rambiz' is used : a floating sheerlegs crane that can lift a weight of more than 3,300 tons. The entire lifting operation takes an estimated 19 hours. There are about 50 people involved.

Maintenance works to the lock gate, gate chamber and doorway

The lifting operations clear the way for maintenance works to the gate chamber and the doorway. This includes cleaning and painting and the renewal of rails and guiderails. In the inner port, maintenance works are carried out at the lock gate itself. A scaffold is placed around the lock. Oysters and sludge are removed. The mechanical parts are checked, new technologies and systems are installed and the gate is repainted. In the spring of 2019, the gate will be returned to the lock.

A good cooperation between government and private organisations

The renovation of the ‘Vandamme’ lock is a large-scale and very complex operation, which is only possible thanks to the good cooperation between different partners. The Joint Venture Soetaert-Jan De Nul is the general contractor in charge of the lifting operations of the lock gate. In addition, more parties are closely involved: various subcontractors, several departments of the Department of Mobility and Public Works, the Department of Electromechanics & Telematics of the Agency for Roads & Traffic and various external parties, such as the SBE consultancy and the Zeebrugge Port Authority (MBZ).