For the moment all maritime traffic to the inner port goes through the Vandamme lock. A second maritime lock, the Visart lock, already dates back from 1907 with dimensions too small for the current sizes of maritime vessels (210m in length x 19,7m in width x 9m in depth versus the dock water level). This is deprecated infrastructure and does not correspond to the needs of the present-day maritime transport.
The Vandamme lock currently operates at full capacity. This lock is in use since 1984 and maintenance works are being carried out. In this process it has become clear that in the medium term more invasive works for rehabilitation are needed. These works would imply the decommissioning of the Vandamme lock for a longer period. As such, the realisation of a second full-fledged access to the inner port is a necessity. At the same time the selected solution should take into account the further development of the area, the associated capacity needs and the current state of the Vandamme lock.
On July, 15. 2016, the Flemish Government took the initiating decision for the planning process ‘Improvement of the nautical access of the (inner)port of Zeebrugge’. In February 2018 the Flemish selected the new location for the lock out of 6 alternatives as a starting point of the research phase. On May, 10. 2019 the Flemish government established the principal preferential decision, taking into account objections raised during the public consultation. The old Visart lock has been confirmed as location of the new lock, but the necessary mitigating measures will be foreseen. During the research phase of the complex project the dimensions of the future lock were defined as 427m in length x 55m in width x 15,1m in depth versus dock water level. At each lock head, two lock gate chambers are foreseen, for rolling gates. Several moveable bridges for road transport, tram and rail freight will be constructed at the lock heads. The nautical access to the new lock will be improved as well.
The decision was submitted to the Council of State for advice but the procedure concluded successfully in June 2021. Currently the chosen alternative is being elaborated further into a final project decision in the development phase, which is expected before the end of the current legislature in May 2024. The implementation phase, actual construction works are expected to start at the latest in fall 2024.