Yesterday, H.R.H. Princess Beatrix opened the 3rd chamber of the Princess Beatrix Lock in the presence of the Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen. A ship’s bell was rung to mark the end of construction which had taken 2.5 years and to launch the first official passage of ships through the new chamber.
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen: ‘Builders, residents, captains and helmsmen should be proud of what they have achieved together here. This expansion has made the historic Beatrix Lock ready for a future in which transport by water is set to increase. The 3rd chamber will enable inland vessels to navigate the lock smoothly and safely.’
The 3rd chamber was officially opened by H.R.H. Princess Beatrix who rang a ship’s bell at the head of the 3rd chamber after which a large bow was untied, the rolling gate was opened and the ship’s lights turned green. This was followed by a celebratory parade of ships which were allowed to be the first to pass through the newly opened chamber together. The fleet inspection was also like a journey through time, providing a wonderful illustration of how inland navigation has expanded. The first to enter the chamber was the RWS59 ir. Josephus Jitta which was named after the architect who built the monumental double lock. This was followed by the Terra Nova, a historic ship from the 1930s, the era during which the Princess Beatrix Lock was originally constructed. The third ship to enter the 3rd chamber was the Time is Money, a trading boat that sold goods to bargees. The fourth ship was the Antonie, a modern ship measuring 110 metres from Vreeswijk. The 135-metre long De Vlissingen brought up the rear, representing the scale of today’s vessels.
The public were able to witness the spectacle. Even in the cold, a crowd of around 600 onlookers on the opposite side of the chamber gave H.R.H. Princess Beatrix a warm welcome and created a celebratory atmosphere. There was a real air of enthusiasm. ‘I had hoped for a long time that Princess Beatrix would come and open the 3rd chamber. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that she’s here today!’, said an appreciative onlooker.
The official opening marks the end of 2.5 years of construction. The figures are dizzying. The two lock heads are each 30 x 60 metres. Each lock head has two lock gates, each being 28 metres wide, 14 metres high and 6.25 metres thick and weighing 490,000 kilos. The 3rd chamber contains 44,875 m3 of concrete and 17,900 tons of reinforcement.
In addition, the Lek Canal was widened in order to make room for the 3rd chamber and provide room for ships to manoeuvre. To the north of the lock, the canal has been made between 40 and 90 metres wider and 11 additional moorings have been created while to the south of the lock, the canal has been widened by a maximum of 105 metres. 2 million m3 of material was excavated in order to enable the widening activities to be completed.
Gradual opening and thereafter
Over the next few weeks, the progressive opening of the chamber is to be carried out in order to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s. Up to 4 March, the other two lock chambers will also be in operation so that multiple chambers will always be available for shipping traffic. From 4 March until the summer, the existing chambers and the old lock complex are to be renovated and the Lek Canal will be deepened further. During that period, larger ships will only be allowed to enter the 3rd chamber if they have been granted permission to do so. In addition, all the maintenance works that are still being carried out on the complex are due to be completed in the autumn of 2019 and all three of the chambers will be put back into operation again.