Water is of vital importance to a port and its surroundings. It is important that sufficient clean water flows through the port. This is essential to ensure the port's nautical accessibility at all times and to guanrantee that industrial processes continue to run.

Water quantity

Climate change is bringing risks, such as flooding, but also drought. How do we ensure that our port is up to the challenge and that there is enough water in our docks? In other words, how do we ensure a transition to a climate-adaptive port?

Therefore we use water as sparingly as possible. We also encourage companies in the port area to recycle water or use water sources other than drinking water. The emphasis in this regard is on internal water saving, smart water use, closing water cycles between companies and guaranteed water availability for port and industry.

We encourage companies to recycle water or use water sources other than drinking water.

Smart sensors monitor water quality

Consequently, we inventorised all sources and water losses from the docks through the KULeuven water balance model. This allowed us to calculate scenarios such as the impact of climate change (sea level rise and longer drier periods). To get a better overview of the losses and to optimize the operation of the locks, we trace leaks at the level of these sea locks. 


With the dock level management application, we give the coordination centre more insight into future rainfall and the tides of the Scheldt river so they can take action to keep the dock level at the right mark. In collaboration with several partners, we installed a range of smart sensors in the Antwerp docks. These probes measure, among other things, the conductivity or salinity and temperature of the dock water

Pump installation

In cases of extreme drought, we are studying whether it is possible in Antwerp to send water from the Scheldt to the docks and the Albert Canal via a pumping installation.


In Zeebrugge, the situation is different because the docks and the Baudouin canal are supplied from the Ghent-Bruges canal. In the event of extreme drought, the upper flow rate may be temporarily insufficient in this regard. Care is taken to ensure that during seasonal changes, the salt water from the sea does not penetrate far inland.


De haven moet bereikbaar blijven voor mensen en goederen. Daarom werken we aan een modal shift om tegen 2030 een verschuiving te maken naar meer goederenvervoer over spoor, door middel van binnenvaart en via pijpleidingen.

Circular use of water

Port of Antwerp-Bruges encourages the reuse of water flows within a company and between companies themselves. In this way, we are aiming to close water cycles and ensure that as little water as possible is lost.


A few examples:


  • We investigated how to collect and reuse or infiltrate as much rain or rainwater as possible. The dry docks in Antwerp already operate on recycled wastewater and we cool our data centres with rainwater. Meanwhile, the conclusions of the study are being implemented in our sewerage policy, consultancy and concession policy. 
  • At the NextGen district in Antwerp, we are attracting businesses that are committed to the circular economy and we are striving to reuse as much water as possible. Ekopak's Waterkracht project will install a state-of-the-art water plant that will convert wastewater purified by Aquafin from Antwerp residents into high-quality, sustainable cooling water for companies in the port. At full capacity, the plant will be able to produce up to 3,000 m³/h of water, allowing a minimum of 20 billion litres of wastewater to be reused on an annual basis.

Water quality

Good water quality in the port is important – not just for the fauna and flora, but for the surrounding companies too. They use dock water for some of their processes. That's why we monitor the water quality and organise clean-up campaigns. In this way, we are making the transition to a Clean Port.

Waar is het water vervuild en hoe komt dat? Om dat te weten onderzoekt Port of Antwerp-Bruges iedere maand de kwaliteit van het water.

Where is the water polluted and how did this happen? To find out, Port of Antwerp-Bruges examines the quality of the water every month.

  • Water samples
    We take water samples at various locations and at different depths, so that a laboratory can test whether the water is polluted by heavy metals or detergents, for example.
  • Smart water sensors
    Smart water sensors make it easier to monitor water quality at different locations and depths. As such, we are able to detect and remedy the cause of pollution more quickly.
  • Drone inspections
    We use drones for inspections and in the event of oil spillages, so we get a rapid overview of the situation.

Healthy ecosystem for fish

Fish don't just need clean water. They also need plenty to eat. Making smooth quay walls rougher, for example, creates a refuge where small aquatic animals can live. And fish love that. To ensure that fish also reproduce in the harbour, a "spawning zone" has been created at the Lillo Bridge in Antwerp. This is a safe place where fish can lay their eggs undisturbed.

The fish swim through a tube in the quay wall to the spawning area. When they are big enough, the newborn fish swim to the harbour and the Scheldt. As such, we are protecting and stimulating acquatic life.

Vroeger zat de ondertussen verboden giftige stof TBT in de verf waarmee schepen werden geschilderd. Door de jaren heen is die stof in de bodem van de havendokken terechtgekomen. Met een hoogtechnologisch installatie reinigen we het slib en filteren we het afvalwater.

Water doesn't stop at the boundaries of the port area. As such, in terms of both quantity and quality, we are consulting with various stakeholders and other watercourse managers.

  • Cleaning the waterbed by dredging contaminated sludge
    In the past, the now banned toxic substance TBT was in the paint used to paint ships. Over the years, that dust has settled into the bed of the harbour docks. With a high-tech installation, we clean the sludge and filter the wastewater.
  • Durable cleaning of hulls and propellers
    Together with other Flemish seaports, Port of Antwerp-Bruges supports innovative companies that develop high-tech systems for cleaning ship hulls and propellers. Thanks to suction and filtration, shipping companies avoid harmful substances and/or unwanted organisms being present in the water column. Effective maintenance also ensures better working conditions and a positive impact on the climate through reduced CO₂ emissions or other air pollution.
  • ‘Patje Plastic’
    The plastic-catcher ‘Patje Plastic’ can be seen in the Doel Dock in Antwerp. The installation consists of a floating arm 100 metres long and 1.5 metres deep, which pushes floating waste towards a large waste collector. A series of filters in the collector separates larger waste from smaller waste. And when the container is full? A crane truck hoists up the containers and takes the rubbish away. ‘Patje Plastic’ doesn't need electricity, it works on wind, wave and gravity power.
  • Waste collection boat 'Condor'
    Pallets, refrigerators, tractor tires, ship ropes, bike wrecks, etc. You name it, you'll find it in the water. Every day, the crew of the waste collection boat ‘Condor’ hit the waves to fish out litter and illegal dumping in the port's water. They either go looking for waste themselves, or receive alerts from other ships when there is junk floating in the water.

Broader vision than the port area

Water doesn't stop at the boundaries of the port area. As such, in terms of both quantity and quality, we are consulting with various stakeholders and other watercourse managers. In addition, we follow the European and Flemish regulations and in our role as regulator, we ensure clear regulations, for example from the Port Police Regulations and the updated concession policy.

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