De Waal is a busy river and an important link in the connection between Rotterdam and the German Ruhr area. Every year some 165,000 ships cross the border at Lobith/Tolkamer. Together they transport about 160 million tonnes of goods. This makes the Waal one of the busiest rivers in the world.
The shipping traffic on the Waal is still increasing. In order to continue to guarantee safe shipping in the future, the channel will be adapted and traffic control intensified. In 1994, Rijkswaterstaat launched the measures necessary for this under the name of the Waal project.
One of these projects was the creation of overnight ports in which barges can spend the night safely. This is very important for safe shipping, especially in the busy future. Many accidents with barges occurred because ships were anchored at night along the waterways. Due to the waves and suction of passing ships, anchors became loose and the ships ended up in the channel. Collisions and near collisions were the result. Anchor beams also narrow the waterway, reducing the space for overrunning manoeuvres.
Along the Waal, for example, sufficient safe and quiet berths are being created in overnight ports. The ports in Haaften and IJzendoorn have now been realised. Studies are still being carried out on a port in Lobith (Bijenwaard) and Weurt.
Traffic control has become necessary with the increase in transport by water. The introduction of traffic control is also one of the components of the Waal project. Especially in the bends between Pannerdense Kop and Nijmegen this guidance is necessary. The curves here are sharp and confusing. Moreover, they succeed each other quickly. Although shipping is a very safe form of transport, accidents do sometimes happen in the bends of the river Waal, which can hamper the smooth flow of traffic. All the more reason to do something about this.
By supervising shipping traffic, Rijkswaterstaat aims to reduce the number of accidents by 20 to 30% and to ensure that the transit of ships is safe and smooth.
What does traffic control mean?
In practice, this means that a number of radar posts have been installed in a certain area, which transmit their signals to a traffic post that is manned 24 hours a day. If necessary, radar images are supplemented with television images of a traffic unsafe location. Modern technology combines these images into a traffic image. This gives air traffic controllers a good overview of the shipping in the area in question.
They can use the maritime radio to inform the shipping industry, for example about the position of other ships. They can prevent difficult situations and, if necessary, give binding instructions.
In the floodplains near Lent, Ooij, Erlecom, Doornenburg and the Pannerdense Kop, five unmanned radar stations have been built in recent years. These stations transmit signals, the radar images, to the traffic stations in Nijmegen and Tiel.
Nijmegen traffic post in a new look
January 2001 the first spade went into the ground for the new traffic control in Nijmegen. The old one had been in service for 15 years and was in need of replacement. The new building has been given the nickname ‘the whale’. It is a building that stands out, strikingly situated at the intersection of the Meuse and the Waal. The traffic post has now been built and is located on the east bank of the Meuse-Waal canal, because on the west side the overnight port would be at Weurt.
A multifunctional office
The large glass surface gives air traffic controllers a good view of the river. Even at high tide, the traffic control post can be reached; through the pole on which the building stands and through the bridge leading from the post to the dike. The new traffic control centre is a multifunctional office where, in addition to traffic control, meetings can also take place or guests can be received.