Estuarine navigation is navigation with reinforced inland navigation craft over a small area of open sea along the coastline, between the estuary of the Western Scheldt and the port of Zeebrugge. This special mode of transport is the solution for the current limited inland navigation access to the port of Zeebrugge.

An alternative to inland navigation

Estuarine navigation was introduced in 2007 as a provisional measure, pending full inland navigation access for the port of Zeebrugge. From that moment on, modified and reinforced inland navigation craft (estuary ships) will be able to sail the route between Zeebrugge and the mouth of the Western Scheldt. After that they will continue their journey via the inland waterways (Western Scheldt). In this way, they avoid the limited transit possibilities at Bruges.

Important hinterland mode

Since then, estuarine navigation has developed into a permanent solution, increasingly used by the companies in the port of Zeebrugge. In recent years, estuarine navigation has experienced strong growth as a valuable transport mode to and from the hinterland.  

Estuaire vaart is het varen met versterkte binnenschepen over een klein stukje open zee langs de kustlijn, tussen de monding van de Westerschelde en Zeebrugge. Deze bijzondere vervoerswijze is een slimme oplossing voor de huidige beperkte binnenvaartontsluiting van Zeebrugge.

All types of cargo

All types of cargo including containers, trucks, breakbulk and project cargo can be transported via estuarine navigation. Liquid bulk accounts for a significant share of estuary traffic. Various operators from the bunker market use estuary tankers for the bunkering of the ships in the port.


Containers also form an important part of estuarine navigation and are also a segment boasting continuous growth figures. In addition to around a dozen estuary tankers, there are five estuary container ships operated by PortConnect, a subsidiary of Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

Contact our expert

Olivier Crousel

General Manager PortConnect

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