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                  issues. In view of climate change and rising sea levels, this is becoming increasingly more topical. WaTERLab is also highly suitable for testing new materials for lock construction and for gaining insight into long- term material characteristics.”
WaTERLab has progressed from idea to project. Schotman has now amassed an entire project group comprising people from knowledge institutions such as Deltares, TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) and Hogeschool van Amsterdam, but also from companies Royal HaskoningDHV and TBI, Rijkswaterstaat (the executive agency of the Ministry of Public Works and Water Management) and the Municipality of Velsen.
Schotman: “The main advantage of WaTERLab is the availability of a large, working sea lock on the boundary of fresh and salt water that is no longer required to be 100 percent operationally available. This role is assumed by the New Sea Lock. It consequently becomes possible to set up test situations without disrupting shipping traffic. Furthermore, we can for example only allow a specific type of ship to pass through the North Lock, which enables us to perform tests under controlled conditions. An additional benefit of setting up the North Lock as a field lab is that it remains partially available as a lock for shipping traffic. During busy periods, for example, or in periods of draught to prevent salt intrusion; at the New Sea Lock, the latter constitutes an even more substantial issue.”
To financially realise WaTERLab, the test basin can be leased out
to customers on a project basis and of course also to the Port of Amsterdam. The technical lifespan of the North Lock still extends to 2029. The application of various kinds of innovations, for example in the fields of concrete preservation, control technology or hydraulic engineering, might make it possible to further extend this lifespan. Various (European) innovation funds can also be called upon, certainly if the cooperation with the educational sector is fully utilised.
Schotman emphasises that in order to fully capitalise on the potential of a field lab, the government will have to introduce simplified legislation to allow for experimentation with new techniques, procedures and materials to be performed at the site of WaTERLab. “This of course
on the condition that the function of primary flood defence is not compromised.”
Over time, Schotman and his team have become more and more enthusiastic about the possibilities afforded by WaTERLab. The main question of course remains what the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will ultimately decide about the future of the North Lock. Schotman: “It would be a pity to pass up this unique opportunity.”
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