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René’s Challenge: to guarantee the safety of millions of people at all times

The world’s largest sea lock is currently being built in Ijmuiden in The Netherlands. The lock exceeds the size of the locks in the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. Ambitious? Certainly. But it’s a sheer necessity in order to ensure that the Port of Amsterdam remains accessible for large container vessels and cruise ships. And to create a water barrier that stops the sea during storms in order to guarantee the safety of millions of people.

Sizable project

OpenIJ, a consortium of construction companies, is building the new sea lock in Ijmuiden in The Netherlands. The project has been commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Waterways and Public Works. The new sea lock will have a length of 500 metres, a width of 70 metres, and a depth of 18 metres, which will make it into the world’s largest sea lock. “Roads will be constructed on top of the doors of the locks, offering space for cars and bikes to cross. That’s easily possible because the doorsare wide enough”, according to René van der Pluijm, ICT Group’s Project Manager at the OpenIJ project. René and his team are contributing to the design and the integration of all systems. “From the hydraulic lock doors to the traffic signals, and from the climate installation to the barriers. Road and shipping traffic, everything must be able to communicate.”

Enormous forces

The larger the lock, the larger the volume of water that must be added or drained to maintain the right water level. “During each passage, an average of 70,000 cubic metres of water is flowing in or out of the lock. Moreover, a sea lock involves both fresh water and sea water. Heavier sea water that flows into the lock too fast causes strong currents just above the floor of the lock’s chamber. This triggers an enormous force that is hard to stop. What’s more, water that flows into or out of the lock too fast causes the hawsers that tie down the ships to break. However, water that flows too slowly has economic consequences because the passage through the lock takes too long. These are some of the factors, and I can think of a lot more, that determine how the slides in the doors of the locks need to be controlled. And take it from me, each situation is different. We have to think of a solution for each situation, including extensive programming, integrating and testing.”

“The decision of one person can have consequences for someone else. I communicate and harmonise, and I keep an overview over the entire design.”

Reliable

Safe, reliable and available. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “Unsafe situations must never arise, under any circumstance whatsoever. The economic and public interests are simply too large. This is the reason why we predict possible failures. What can possibly go wrong, and how can it be prevented? We think of all possibilities in advance, and test all possible situations just as extensively as in a normal situation.” Everything is recorded, right down to the smallest detail. And there’s a considerable list of requirements and applicable legislation that must be complied with, in a demonstrable manner.

Ground-breaking

A factor that’s making the project even more challenging is the fact that while the sea lock is under construction and being tested, the old locks remain operational. “The activities are not allowed to cause any hindrance to the shipping or road traffic. Not an easy requirement, for the area is rather small. The construction of the new sea locks is a magnificent technical challenge, in every respect.”

René van der Pluijm, Project Manager at ICT Group working on the OpenIJ project. “Unsafe situations must never arise, under any circumstance whatsoever. The economic and public interests are simply too large. This is the reason why we predict possible failures. What can possibly go wrong, and how can it be prevented? We think of all possibilities in advance, and test all possible situations just as extensively as in a normal situation.” Everything is recorded, right down to the smallest detail. And there’s a considerable list of requirements and applicable legislation that must be complied with, in a demonstrable manner. “The decision of one person can have consequences for someone else. I communicate and harmonise, and I keep an overview over the entire design.”

Do you want to work on challenging projects?

Take a look at the vacancies on our website: www.ict.eu/jobs.

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