Port of Antwerp accelerates efforts to clean waterways


The Port of Antwerp has struck an agreement with the Flemish government and contractor SeReAnt to begin dredging and processing polluted dredging sludge at the Port in a drive to improve water quality.

In a statement the Port said it had taken the measure to clear the “so-called TBT sludge”. Lydia Peeters, Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, said the parties had found a “solution” to “historical pollution”, and described it a “worldwide first and a milestone”.

“We will remove the most contaminated sludge from the docks. As a result, water quality will improve substantially,” Peeters said.

In a joint statement, the parties explained that “enourmous quantities of sludge” are dredged and processed by the Port’s filtering systems. However, it was unable to process sludge with elevated organotin concentrations or Tributyltin, or TBT.

“TBT had been used worldwide in ship paint since the 1970s to prevent the growth of mussels and algae on hulls, but has been completely banned since 2003,” said YiBin Shan, Head of the Maritime Access Department at the Department of Public Works.

“After all, the product is enormously harmful to the environment and is also difficult to break down.

“The sludge has been storing TBT like a sponge all these years and is gradually releasing this contamination. This is disrupting the metabolism and hormone action of molluscs in particular, such as snails and mussels.”

“Along with the University of Antwerp, we have been investigating for several years how to get TBT out of the port,” said 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 will jointly release the necessary resources for dredging and processing the most polluted dredging sludge.

“Flanders makes €25 million ($29.5 million) available annually for the operation of AMORAS. We are now making an additional investment of 700,000 euros a year to dispose of TBT spoil in an ecologically responsible manner.

“This way, we can increase the accessibility of the port, an important task for the Flemish government,” says Flemish Minister Lydia Peeters.

“Port of Antwerp has invested 1 million euros in the preliminary phase of this project and will release €1.5 million ($1.1 million) a year for the effective processing of TBT spoil,” port alderman Annick De Ridder continues.

“Port of Antwerp wants to be an inspiration for other ports and take a pioneering role in the field of sustainability”.

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