Ships must be able to enter the new lock in a safe way. That is why works are being carried out on the west side of the new lock to realise a proper approach channel. Jasper Coremans, Project Coordinator of OpenIJ, explained what is being built or removed to realise this.
‘Just southwest of the southern lock chamber wall of the new lock, we are building what we call a “dividing wall”, Coremans explained. ‘The dividing wall connects the new sea lock with the Middle Lock and serves as a flood defence and the future public road across the locks will be built on top of it. South of the dividing wall lies the current inner approach channel that connects the Middle Lock to the North Sea Canal. The new sea lock's seaward or outer approach channel will be built on the north side of the dividing wall. The necessary dredging operations will start at a later stage’.
Protection of the Middle Lock
‘On the seaward side of the dividing wall, we are building a so-called “guard wall”. This guard wall will separate the Middle Lock from the new sea lock's outer approach channel’. Coremans added, 'The guard wall protects the Middle Lock when ships are entering the new sea lock. The guard wall is also part of the entire coastal flood defence structure and connects the flood defence of the new sea lock with that of the Middle Lock'. Coremans pointed out that the public road will be built be on the landward side of this flood defence. ‘This will enable road traffic to cross the North Sea Canal at the lock complex’.
Separation of the outer approach channels
‘Still further to the seaward side of the guard wall, we are building an outer approach wall. The outer approach wall separates the outer approach channel to the new sea lock from the outer approach channel to the Middle Lock. Separation is necessary because the two approach channels differ greatly in depth - the new lock is accessible to deep draught ships, whereas the Middle Lock is not', Coremans explained.
Removal of the western part of the Middle Lock Island
‘The western part of the Middle Lock Island will be removed. This area of land used to form the separation between the outer approach channels to the North Lock and the Middle Lock. This area now serves as a temporary depot. The western part of the Middle Lock island must be removed to make place for the new outer approach channel to the new sea lock and will soon have completely disappeared’.
Concrete structures almost completed
The concrete structures for the dividing wall, the guard wall and the outer approach wall are almost completed. Then the finishing work can begin. ‘The finishing work is necessary to complete these structures and to make them an integral part of the entire coastal flood defence which also includes the construction of a public road. So we will be busy with such things as paving work, the sewer system, cables, pipelines and other installations. When everything has been completed, we will remove the western part of the Middle Lock Island, including the areas to the north of the guard wall and the dividing wall’.
Minimal disruption to shipping traffic
‘There is minimal disruption to shipping traffic at the moment’, said Coremans. ‘Although the North Lock and the Middle Lock are both available, work ships are currently carrying out works in the inner approach channel to the Middle Lock, so ships must pass with caution there. But we have put sufficient safety measures in place already three years ago, when we diverted part of the inner approach channel to the Middle Lock to a more southerly route'.