The Wilhelmina Canal is an important water way in the south of the Netherlands, and a vital part of the transportation infrastructure. In order to keep up with the increasing water traffic and increasing size of the ships, the canal is being widened and deepened near the city of Tilburg.
As part of the larger project, the existing locks II and III are replaced by a single new lock. Also, new sheet piling is installed along the canal sides and a more environmentally banks are being developed.
While smaller composite lock gates have been installed in the past, so far the number of installations have been limited. The use of the large composite lock gates (size of each part 6.2 x 12.9 m) in the Tilburg project, means a major breakthrough in the acceptance of composite technology for this demanding application. The individual gate doors need to have very high strength and stiffness, and are required to resist water in continued contact for over 80 years, whilst surviving any potential impact of ships in that time.
“Lock gates in composite materials are highly competitive in terms of cost compared to traditional material solutions based on steel and wood”
The composite parts were designed, engineered and manufactured by FiberCore Europe using resins from Aliancys. The large parts have a relatively low weight (24 MT) which is significantly lower than comparable solutions in steel and wood (respectively 50% and 25% less). This makes the installation much easier, requiring simpler equipment and upfront preparation. Because the fact that the specific gravity of the gate material is fairly close to the one of water (unlike steel), the wear and tear on the pivoting points is greatly reduced.
Once the project is complete, larger vessels should be able to sail through this section much faster, which would mean less congestion and heavy traffic on main roadways. The improvements to the canal will also create additional economic opportunities in the south of the Netherlands, as businesses are increasingly using the canal network for delivery of products.