The Operational and Maintenance departments of Antwerp Port Authority will shortly be merged to form a "Nautical & technical cluster." The new entity will have two floating dry docks at quay 602-612 for repairing its own fleet.
This will put an end to the "fixed docks" on Dry Dock Island where the first facility was built in 1861. Over the next few years this site will be converted to leisure use as the "Dry Dock Recreation Park."
The new dry docks will be able to take vessels from 1500 to 1750 tonnes, with a width of up to 23 m and a draught of up to 7 m, and will be equipped with a crane with a lifting capacity of 10 tonnes. These floating structures will also be available to carry out repair and maintenance work for outside companies.
The new dry docks look impressive, but the technology behind them is very simple. There are water tanks underneath and at the sides which can be filled or pumped dry as necessary. To float a vessel into the dock, the tanks are filled with water so that the dock sinks. The tanks are then pumped out, lifting the dock and the vessel with it. The whole process of lowering the dock, floating in a vessel and then raising it takes two or three hours.
Each floating dock rides up and down in fixed guide rails and which in turn are solidly attached to two piles, so that the dock always retains its position with respect to the quay, whatever its height.
Any polluted water which gathers on the floor of the dock is drained away to a collection tank in the bottom of the dock. This collection tank is emptied automatically whenever it reaches a certain level, with the contents being pumped ashore to be cleaned. In this way no dirty water is allowed to enter the Canal dock when
the structure is lowered.