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This massive 'threshold' should protect Belgium from severe (inland) storms.

This massive ‘threshold’ should protect Belgium from severe (inland) storms.

A huge concrete storm barrier left Kalou, in the port of Antwerp, on Friday morning towards the harbor channel in Newport. From there, the giant will protect our country from very severe storms.


The sill is an important part of the storm surge barrier that the Marine and Coastal Services Agency is currently constructing. The storm barrier will protect the Nieuwpoort, and therefore the entire interior, from getting wet.

Flemish Mobility and Public Works Minister Lydia Peters (Open VLD) came to see how the 23m, 42m long and 5m thresholds were finished. Later, a steel railing will be built into the concrete sill that can be constructed in case of severe weather. “Building a storm barrier is unique to our country,” Peters said. “Transportation from Antwerp to Newport is a real journey. A storm barrier is essential to protect remote areas from flooding.”

fragile coast

Today’s coastal ports are most at risk of flooding when severe storms occur. Newport is also not yet prepared for the high water levels associated with severe storms, according to the minister. “So the Flemish government is investing 58 million euros in building a storm barrier at the mouth of the Yusr River.”

The structure is one of the measures in the Coastal Safety Master Plan that should protect our entire coast from severe storms through 2050. This is much needed, according to Dirk van Rompuy, Director of Civil Works Jan De Nul Group. “Our Belgian coast is vulnerable to sea level rise. The storm surge barrier should protect our 67 km coastline.”

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The threshold is a unique hydraulic engineering construction where all the know-how and experience in civil and marine technologies are combined. It is built on a pontoon that can sink. Two tugs pull the pontoon first via Scheldt and then by sea to the port of Ostend, a journey of about twelve hours.

Upon reaching Ostend, the threshold is attached to a crane on a second pontoon. The concrete sill weighs more than 4,500 tons, and therefore it will be sunk so that the sill is completely submerged. The tonnage to be lifted would then be “only” 1,210 tons. Once it arrives, it is lowered between two supports.