The additional measures in place as a result of the ongoing drought are causing extra long "traffic jams" for ships on the Albert Canal in Flanders, the Flemish Waterway Agency announced on its website.
Locking – when a ship is moved between two waterways with different water levels by means of a lock – is now happening in groups. This means that staff waits with the locking until several ships are ready. While this prevents excessive water loss, it also results in long waiting times.
At the locks of Wijnegem and Olen (both in Antwerp), the waiting time is increasing to four hours. At the other three in Hasselt, Diepenbeek and Genk (all in Limburg) the waiting time is two hours.
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The Albert Canal is fed by water from the Meuse and the flow in that river is very low: about 35 cubic meters per second. "The situation on the canal is not yet so precarious that draft restrictions have to be imposed on the ships," Liliane Stinissen, spokesperson for the Flemish Waterway Agency, told De Standaard.
On Thursday, the Flemish Drought Committee will meet again to discuss whether taking additional measures need to be taken. The situation in the Meuse and Albert Canal is being closely monitored.
"The canal is an important economic artery in Flanders, not only for shipping but also for drinking water supply and for the companies that lie along it and draw water from it for their operation."