Milestone for Flanders and Port of Antwerp

The Flemish government, Port of Antwerp and contractor SeReAnt (a partnership between the Jan De Nul GROUP and DEME environmental companies) will begin dredging and processing the most polluted dredging sludge at the port, the so-called TBT sludge, this month.

“After years of research, there is now finally a solution to this historical pollution. This is a worldwide first and a milestone for Flanders and Port of Antwerp,” says Lydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works. “We will remove the most contaminated sludge from the docks. As a result, water quality will improve substantially.”

“Along with the University of Antwerp, we have been investigating for several years how to get TBT out of the port,” added Jacques Vandermeiren, Port of Antwerp’s CEO.

“We are proud that we can finally tackle this historical pollution. Currently, the water quality in the docks scores below the European standard. This project will greatly improve it. As a port authority, we believe it’s important to take responsibility in respect of society. This makes us the only port in the world that not only removes polluted sludge, but also processes it sustainably.”

The Flemish government and Port of Antwerp are jointly releasing the necessary resources for dredging and processing the most polluted dredging sludge.

800,000 m³ of sludge over the next five years

Processing the total quantity of polluted sludge at the port of Antwerp is a long-term task.

A pilot project was started in 2018 after obtaining the necessary permits and some modifications to the water treatment plant.

“We have added an extra step to our processes and installed activated carbon filters. These filter the toxic substances out of the water after it passes through our treatment plant,” said Yi-Bin Shan, Head of Maritime Access. “During that pilot project, we had already dredged, transferred and processed 185,000 m³ of heavily contaminated sludge on AMORAS. In this way, we were able to properly map out the impact on the installation and all possible risks. Now, there is an agreement to remove 800,000 m³ of sludge from the harbour docks over the next five years and process it into 500,000 tonnes of filter cake. We’ll first remove the sludge that obstructs nautical access and the worst TBT hotspots in the older, southern part of the port. Then we’ll deal with the other areas.”

Through AMORAS, the Flemish government and Port of Antwerp are working together on the sustainable and long-term storage and processing of maintenance dredging sludge from the Antwerp docks.

AMORAS stands for Antwerp Mechanical Dewatering, Recycling and Application of Sludge. The Department of Mobility and Public Works provides 80% of the funds, while Port of Antwerp provides the other 20%.

Since 2011, the dewatering plant has been processing 450,000 tonnes of dry matter into filter cakes every year. 

Photo: DEME

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