Upgrading Of The Albert Canal

The Crucial Role of the Albert Canal

The Albert Canal is Belgium's most important waterway. The canal connects the Port of Antwerp and the Scheldt River with the Meuse River in Liège. In addition, inland waterway transport on the Albert Canal includes a significant share of cross-border water transport to and from the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

Challenges and Solutions for Optimal Utilization

Annually, 40 million tons of goods are transported through this canal. However, due to several bottlenecks, the canal could not yet be optimally utilized. For instance, it was not suitable for four-layer container shipping. Hence, De Vlaamse Waterweg nv upgraded this canal by raising bridges and locally widening the canal. In doing so, De Vlaamse Waterweg nv promotes the use of inland waterway transport, which benefits traffic congestion and CO2 emissions in Flanders.

Infrastructure Transformation and Milestone Moment

Below is a map showing an overview of the 62 bridges over the Albert Canal. Of these, 50 bridges were addressed during the period 2007-2024. The final obstacle – the Wijnegem bridge – was resolved in January 2024. On February 5, 2024, the first four-layer container ship sailed over the Albert Canal.

The Albert Canal is a significant economic hub within the so-called North Sea-Mediterranean corridor. A large portion of the traffic on the canal consists of container transport.

To meet the needs of the expected increase in goods in general and container transport in particular, the bottlenecks on the Albert Canal had to be addressed, notably the insufficient clearance height of a significant portion of the bridges and the limited width of the canal between Antwerp and Wijnegem. These bottlenecks hindered the economic growth of the Albert Canal and the strengthening of inland navigation as an essential logistics link in Flanders.

Ensuring that all bridges have a minimum clearance height of 9.10 meters presents opportunities for Short Sea Shipping, four-layer container transport, three-layer high cube container transport, and larger project cargo (large single-piece loads).