His Majesty the King officially put the IJmuiden sea lock into operation on Wednesday 26 January 2022. With a push of a button, King Willem Alexander opened the inner door of the largest sea lock in the world from the Lock Operations Centre (SOC). In doing so, the King officially gave the first ship access to the North Sea Canal. There the ship was welcomed by a fleet of vessels, representative of the nautical service providers and public parties in the port, such as the Pilotage, Svitzer, Police, Coastguard, Royal Military Police, Customs, KNRM, De Koperen Ploeg and the Corps of Vletterlieden.
Thanks to the new sea lock, the North Sea Canal area, the ports of Amsterdam and the European hinterland connections will remain easily accessible for the next hundred years. The investment in this new maritime access means a significant improvement to the accessibility of the main waterway network. The good accessibility of the North Sea Canal area via the sea lock contributes to important transitions in the ports, such as energy transition and the shift to a circular economy. With the arrival of the sea lock, these can continue to develop and expand and thus contribute to the necessary sustainability of the economy and society.
The new, larger sea lock replaces the Noordersluis lock, built in 1929, which was due for replacement after almost one hundred years. The IJmuiden sea lock is 500 meters long, 70 meters wide and 18 meters deep, making it the largest sea lock in the world. The depth of 18 meters makes it possible for ships to use the sea lock from the sea side independently of the tides and to sail smoothly and safely to the Amsterdam Port region. This makes the ports accessible 24/7 via the sea access at IJmuiden. Locking via the new sea lock can be planned better and is more efficient. This makes shipping more predictable and therefore the service more reliable.
Sea lock as a water barrier
The sea lock towers above the IJmuiden lock complex. The reason for this is that the sea lock is built at a water retaining height of 8.85 metres above sea level. This means that the lock is prepared for the rising sea level and will also contribute to dry feet in the northwestern part of the Randstad in the future.
The Selective Withdrawal measure is an important part of the IJmuiden sea lock project. When passing through the sea lock, more salt water flows into the North Sea Canal than does through the Noordersluis. To protect nature, agriculture, horticulture and the drinking water supply from salinization, a solution has been found in the selective discharge of this salt water via the Spui- en Gemaalcomplex IJmuiden.
To this end, Rijkswaterstaat is building a dam in the Binnenspuikanaal, north of the sea lock with an opening at the bottom. Since salt water is heavier than fresh water, only the salt water from the deep water layers is drained off to sea through the opening, thus maintaining the quality of the water in the North Sea Canal and the surrounding areas.
Construction of the sea lock
The construction of Zeesluis IJmuiden began in July 2016 and was completed in August 2021.
An intensive period of inventive construction, where space was limited. During construction, shipping could continue to pass through the lock complex via the existing gullies. To avoid inconvenience on the road, all the materials and equipment were transported by water. Because of the limited space and the adjacent lock chambers, construction was mainly vibration-free. Everything about the lock is big. For example, the two operational doors and the reserve door each weigh 3,000 tons. They are the size of an apartment building with dimensions of 72 meters long, 11 meters wide and 24 meters high. For the construction of the lock, 300,000 cubic meters of concrete were used for the walls, floor and door casings, among other things. The concrete was manufactured by an in-house concrete plant at the construction site. A total of 4.5 million cubic meters of soil was also excavated.
Testing and practice
After construction was completed last autumn, a period of practice and testing of the lock followed. Together with the operators of the Central Nautical Management, the tugboats, the mooring operators, the pilotage service and the emergency services, Rijkswaterstaat tested the sea lock. An important part of practicing with the lock was experiencing the currents in the flume and the forces created on the mooring lines by the water currents due to the exchange of fresh and salt water.
Because of the measurements of Corona, there was a small gathering around the official opening. This took place in the Lock Operations Centre in the presence of the parties directly involved. After the official opening His Majesty the King spoke with the builders of contractor consortium OpenIJ and local residents, among others. The King also spoke with the lock operators and representatives of the port business community. In order to involve everyone as much as possible, the opening ceremony could be followed via an online stream at www.openingzeesluisijmuiden.nl. In the coming period interested parties can watch the opening ceremony here.
The IJmuiden sea lock project is a joint venture between the covenant parties Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Province of North Holland, the Municipality of Amsterdam together with the Port of Amsterdam and the Municipality of Velsen. Rijkswaterstaat commissioned contractor consortium OpenIJ (BAM-PGGM and VolkerWessels) to build the sea lock. OpenIJ will also be responsible for maintenance for the next 26 years. The project was co-financed by the CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) fund of the European Union.