After a construction project lasting five years, the largest lock in the world has opened in Antwerp.
The Kieldrecht lock is 500m long, 68m wide and 18m deep, and was built to accommodate so-called megaships that are increasingly dominating the world’s trade in manufactured goods.
The $430m scheme was financed by the government of Flanders and the Port Authority of Antwerp, with the help of a loan from European Investment Bank (EIB).
It is described by the EIB as "a strategic infrastructure asset for Europe, increasing the navigation capabilities, ensuring maritime and river transport and increasing the international attractiveness of the Port".
The lock connects the Deurganck dock, the tidal dock where container vessels arrive, and the Waasland Canal, the connection with the other docks in the Waasland Port on the left bank of the Scheldt estuary.
Locked: King Filip of Belgium does the honours (Antwerp Port Authority)
The lock was built because the existing Kallo lock had become too small for the latest types of vessels, which can be more than 400m long and carry almost 20,000 containers in stacks more than 20 storeys high.
The lock is now the world’s largest, closely followed by the Berendrecht lock, also in Antwerp, and the locks on the expanded Panama Canal, which will also be opened on 26 June.
Werner Hoyer, president of the EIB, said: "Kieldrecht embodies some of the goals of a Union seeking more growth, competitiveness and jobs.
"As Europe is slowly stepping out of the economic crisis and so as to make sure that our single market and international trade prosper, we need a connected union, without barriers, with efficient, viable and sustainable transport infrastructure and networks."
Antwerp is the third largest port in Europe, after Rotterdam and Hamburg, and the 16th largest in the world. Â
Image courtesy of the EIB/Antwerp Port Authority