Understaffed Dutch shipping assistance is also a Flemish problem

"Serious understaffing" in a Dutch control tower caused a lot of problems with piloted shipping last weekend. These problems may eventually spread to our country, says chairman of the Flemish professional maritime pilots' association (BvL) Sven De Ridder.

On Sunday morning, no shipping traffic was possible for at least three hours along the northern approach route to the Scheldt river, due to understaffing at the Vlissingen (Zeeland province) traffic centre in the Netherlands. An attendant reportedly unexpectedly reported sick, according to port magazine Flows.

According to BvL chairman Sven De Ridder, shipping in the Netherlands and Belgium is thus held up by a shortage of personnel in the Dutch control towers. The port of Antwerp, Belgium's largest port and Europe's second-largest, is located on the banks of the Scheldt river, which runs through the southern Dutch Zeeland province before reaching the North Sea.

The staff shortage is supposedly the result of cutbacks in all kinds of nautical services. "The problems in traffic control centres are a direct result of government decisions", says De Ridder. "Some services are sounding the alarm, but can do little else. In the long run, this can certainly hamper shipping."

The Flemish Maritime Services Agency or Dutch ministry of Water Management can shut everything down, "even though we don't actually need them to guide a ship safely into port", says De Ridder.

In the past year, according to De Ridder, staffing levels in Belgian control towers nearly reached a critical low point. "They always found a way to keep operations running from the control towers, but what happened this weekend in the Netherlands could also happen in Belgium."

If there is a shortage of personnel in control towers, the Flemish Maritime Services Agency (MDK) or the Dutch ministry of Water Management can shut everything down - "even though we don't actually need them to guide a ship safely into port", says De Ridder. "It's us who take care of navigation."

According to legislation, however, accompanying support from a control tower is always required. "And yet you can't compare it with, say, a control tower in aviation", says De Ridder. "In shipping it works differently: our control towers mainly perform monitoring tasks. The pilots do the actual work of bringing the ships into the port. The piloting is our responsibility."





Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.

About belganewsagency.eu

Belga News Agency delivers dependable, rapid and high-quality information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Belgium and abroad to all Belgian media. The information covers all sectors, from politics, economics and finance to social affairs, sports and culture, not to mention entertainment and lifestyle.

Every day, our journalists and press photographers produce hundreds of photos and news stories, dozens of online information items, plus audio and video bulletins, all in both national languages. Since the end of March 2022 English has been added as a language.

For public institutions, businesses and various organisations that need reliable information, Belga News Agency also offers a comprehensive range of corporate services to meet all their communication needs.


Arduinkaai 29 1000 Brussels