Innovations to improve water quality in ports

2021/07/16 at 10:18 AM

The green trend in the port industry is evident not only in the new energy sources usage but also in a more careful attitude towards the main resource of any port – water. What solutions have been implemented by the port authorities?

Perhaps, one of the most ambitious projects has been running in the Port of Antwerp since 2006. It is AMORAS, the 20-year programme that was jointly initiated by the Flemish Government and the Antwerp Port Authority and is dedicated to the mechanical dewatering, processing and use of dredging sediment. Its estimated total cost reaches 482 million euros. Two leading Belgian dredging companies, Jan de Nul and DEME Group, participate in the project as contractors.

AMORAS water and sand purification system in the Port of Antwerp, source: Jan de Nul

AMORAS must provide multi-stage water and sand purification system. Its ultimate goal is to make these resources reusable. For now, researches show that approximately 20 per cent of the sediment from the dredging in the port of Antwerp is contaminated and requires separate treatment. The programme consists of mechanical separation of sand, dehydration of sludge, water and air purification, and, finally, disposal of sludge that cannot be cleaned. All of these steps will be possible thanks to a system of centrifuges, pipelines and sedimentation tanks.

One of the problems AMORAS must solve is TBT pollution elimination. TBT (Tributyltin) is a component which had been used worldwide in ship paint to prevent the growth of mussels and algae since the 1970s. However, since 2003, it has been banned as harmful to the environment and difficult to degrade.

Water drones

The Dutch port of Rotterdam paves the way for unmanned vehicles for monitoring the condition and purifying water. A few years ago, few water drones were presented. For instance, AquasmartXL is a small unmanned boat, equipped with a camera. Waste Shark is a device of the size of a passenger car, has an “open mouth” used to remove up to 500 kilos of rubbish from the water. The water drone inspects concrete structures for an oil terminal and visualises them in 3D. It is used for places that are too difficult, dangerous or undesirable to use manned solutions.

AquaSmartXL water drone, source: AquaSmartXL

Drones will also be used in the Port of Gdynia. The Polish port recently announced the procurement proceeding to select a contractor for the provision of testing, measuring and analysing the quality of port water. At the first stage, it is planned to install a weather station and a radar to monitor water quality. Measurements with unmanned vehicles will be the next step.

Smart sensors

The North Sea Port, a two-country enterprise that was incorporated due to a merger of the Dutch Zeeland Seaports and the Belgian port of Ghent, is involved in the Internet of Water initiative, which includes the use of smart technologies to monitor water quality across Flanders. The four-year project started in 2019. Its main goal is to be continuously monitoring parameters such as acidity (pH), salt concentration and temperature by 2023.

The North Sea Port is already part of the network. Smart sensors were placed at four locations on the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal. The port itself will also benefit from the monitoring. For example, it will help control salinisation which negatively affects the port’s steel and wooden structures such as quays and foundation.

Container terminal in the Port of Venice, source: the North Adriatic Sea Port Authority

On the other side of Europe, sensors are also used to monitor water quality. It is the Port of Venice that interacts with a unique sea ecosystem. The pollution resulting from rainwater runoff of the port area is an important issue in the Italian city. Venice Port Authority aims to preserve the water quality by avoiding spills, as well as possible contamination due to stormwater runoff from port wharves and yards. That’s why the special monitoring net with stations installed in the stormwater drainage system was designed. Each station monitors some “key” parameters, useful to assess the overall quality of the stormwater discharged. This system has been implemented thanks to SAFEPORT European project.

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