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A quay wall currently in poor condition is undergoing a unique upgrade in the Rotterdam Sleepboothaven. ‘We’re using the most sustainable and innovative approach,’ explained Patrice Nederhorst, project engineer for marine infrastructure at the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

Nederhorst is involved in the new-build and upgrade of jetties and quay walls. Sustainability is a priority. ‘Our focus is on reducing the Environmental Cost Indicator (ECI): the impact an object will have on the environment during its entire life cycle, from construction to demolition. As well as our carbon footprint, we need to monitor our material use, introduce efficient construction processes and consider the energy supply. We’re stimulating material use reductions and reusing as much steel and concrete as possible. We’re also encouraging contractors to use electric equipment as far as possible and connecting construction sites to sustainable energy sources. Minor improvements in material, equipment and construction processes increase our sustainability and help us achieve the climate objectives.’

Sustainable quay upgrade

Boatmen in the Sleepboothaven support vessels in shifting, debirthing and berthing. The logistics service provider, Broekman Project Services also has a storage site there, which was only accessible by road as the existing quay wall was unusable. Nederhorst: ‘The quay was at the end of its service life. It was quite distorted and there were cracks in the structure below the water surface. We used innovative construction material and sustainable construction methods for the upgrade.’ In the timelapse video below you can see how the renovation was done.

Reduced material and maintenance

A combi-wall was installed in front of the old quay. Prefab concrete elements were attached to this, with ladders and other quay services being installed in advance. The prefab elements were manufactured from steel fibre reinforced concrete, which has been used for some time in utilities construction. However, this had never been used in Rotterdam in a civil, maritime environment of this scale. ‘We had so many questions beforehand. Would we be able to produce and suspend the elements properly? We used market knowledge to find answers to all these questions and then first conducted a trial by constructing a small replica of the wall. The advantage of steel fibre reinforced concrete is that less traditional rebar reinforcement and concrete is needed, and it is also quite elastic, making it better able to absorb vessel loads, resulting in less maintenance in the long term.’

Short construction time

A steel fibre reinforced concrete layer was poured between the concrete elements and the combi-wall to enable them to adhere together. Concrete with a traditional formwork system was applied on top of this. Working with prefabricated elements meant that no temporary cofferdam was needed, which reduced costs and had a positive effect on the ECI. ‘It also meant that we could construct the wall very quickly, which was ideal for those working in the area. The inconvenience to the boatmen was much shorter and Broekman Project Services was able to start using its site again quickly. We will be investigating whether we can use this construction method and type of concrete for jetties and other marine infrastructure, possibly also extending the service life of existing infrastructure.’

World first: 3D printed bollards

Broekman Project Services can accept inland shipping vessels on the renovated quay starting from this summer, which means the project is also stimulating sustainable transport by water. And as the cherry on top, eleven 3D printed bollards are installed on the quay wall. This world first is a joint development by the Port Authority and RAMLAB. Traditionally, our bollards were always made from cast steel (mainly in the Far East) according to a fixed design. 3D printing enables the bollards to be produced more quickly and closer to where they are installed. And the quality is higher than the traditional design. In the long term, the original bollard form will also be developed further to ensure that future bollards are stronger and more sustainable.

Innovative manufacturing industry

RAMLAB began as a start-up several years ago on the RDM (Research Design and Manufacturing) site, where the Rotterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij (Rotterdam Dry Dock Company) formerly operated. This area, where the Sleepboothaven is also located, is now the breeding ground for an innovative manufacturing industry. Companies, students and academics collaborate there to build the port of tomorrow. Nederhorst: ‘There’s a fantastic amount of activity at RDM and all kinds of innovations are being developed. From 3D printed bollards to underwater drones for vessel and quay inspections. This is a great match for our ambition to use scientific research, innovation and digitalisation to further improve and enhance the sustainability of our port infrastructure construction and use.’

Ambitious investment agenda

The Port Authority is in a strong financial position to continue making major investments to optimise port infrastructure and realise social impact. In 2020, its gross investments including participating interests amounted to €265.8 million. The strong gross operating result of €477.5 million and the net result of €351.7 million will also enable the Port Authority to continue implementing its ambitious investment agenda in the coming years, which will have a major impact on employment, sustainability and society. 


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