Water quality

The port as a whole stands to benefit from good water quality. You may think first and foremost of the animals and vegetation in and around the Scheldt. But the companies that use this water also require good water quality. Ships and barges sail in it, companies use it as cooling water, it is also used for pressure tests in tank storage... That is why the Port Authority tests the water quality in the port every month.

The water quality in the port area is relatively good. 

  • There is more oxygen in the water in the docks, although the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) does sometimes exceed the water quality norm.
  • The water’s saline levels also comply with the standard, but they have increased slightly, because of longer dry spells.
  • A large share of the nutrients, such as phosphates and nitrogen, are supplied via the aboveground watercourses, although this is far from sufficient.

Invertebrates that are visible to the naked eye and live in water are still not thriving although various efforts have been undertaken to improve the ecological and chemical condition of the water and the sediment.

Ecological situation

Various efforts to improve the ecological infrastructure in the docks have paid off. Eighteen fish species were found in the spawning ground near Canal Dock 18, including perch, common roach, rudd, silver bream, big-scale sand smelt, sea bass and even the invasive round goby. We also created shelters in the water and the dock walls where water creatures and fish can take shelter. 

Chemical situation

Levels for most of the substances that are listed in the European Water Framework Directives do not exceed the norm, according to water analyses. Until 2015, the number of substances that exceeded the norm was limited. Since 2016, water quality norms have been tightened and some levels now exceed the norm as a result. We are continually investigation the cause of this.

We discovered among others that the problem of polyaromatic hydrocarbons is entirely due to atmospheric deposition. Our priority is to reduce the substances of which the source of emission is located in the port.

… innoveert

  • In de dokken baggeren we vervuild slib en verwerken we dit op een duurzame manier zodat dit hergebruikt kan worden. Het verwijderen van de zogenaamde TBT-specie heeft een grote positieve impact op de waterkwaliteit in de dokken. De haven van Antwerpen is de enige haven in de wereld die dit baggerslib niet enkel verwijdert, maar ook duurzaam verwerkt. 
  • In samenwerking met UAntwerpen plaatsen we in 2021 slimme watersensoren in de haven. Dat maakt het makkelijker om op verschillende plaatsen en dieptes de waterkwaliteit te controleren. Zo zijn we in staat de oorzaak van vervuiling sneller te vinden en op te lossen.
  • Port of Antwerp zet in op slimme onderwatercamera’s. Deze detecteren wat er allemaal op de bodem van de dokken ligt. Dit afval wordt vervolgens gericht verwijderd.
  • In de Antwerpse dokken worden drones ingeschakeld om olievlekken op het dokwater op te sporen. De dronevluchten worden uitgevoerd door European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) en onderzoekers van UAntwerpen analyseren het beeldmateriaal, zodat de olie snel kan worden opgeruimd in geval van olie-incidenten. In de toekomst starten we ook met detectie van drijfafval en plastiek door middel van drones. 
  • De Nul-o-Plastic verwijdert miljoenen plastic korrels in het Galgeschoor. Envisan ontwikkelde in samenwerking met Port of Antwerp een innovatieve stofzuiger die plastic pellets uit de havennatuur weghaalt. Zo wordt de historische vervuiling aangepakt, zonder het natuurgebied te verstoren.


The sediment is also tested. In recent years, the number of contaminations has dropped as the dredging activities and oil spill remediation are handled differently.  But there is still plenty of margin for improvement. 

Companies can actively help improve water and sediment quality by:
•    purifying household waste water.
•    avoiding diffuse discharges.
•    installing valves in the drainage system in case something does go wrong.
•    optimise water consumption.

Environmental permits often require companies to pay attention to water quality.