On 17 September 2022, the navigation channel through the Vistula Spit peninsula in Poland was officially opened, marking the end of the project for BESIX and joint venture partner Grupa NDI. The geopolitically important project significantly reduces the distance between the port of Elblag and the Baltic Sea, making the port more accessible to maritime traffic. The Maritime Office of Gdańsk awarded the contract for the construction to the BESIX-NDI joint venture back in 2019.

Scope of works

The works included the construction of a navigation channel through the peninsula, two breakwaters of respectively 1,014 m and 568 m long, two rotating steel bridges with lock infrastructure and sluice gates, buildings and a new road system. On top of that, a 180 ha artificial island was created with the excavated earth, which will now serve as a protected shelter for birds.

The navigation channel is 1.3 kilometres long and has a varying width of 25 to 120 metres. Vessels with a draught of up to 4.5 metres, a length up to 100 metres and a width of up to 20 metres are able to pass, as well as barges of up to 180 metres.

Geopolitical significance

The Vistula Spit peninsula is a sandy embankment that stretches from Gdańsk (Poland) to Kaliningrad (Russia). In the past, vessels had no other option to reach the port of Elblag than by crossing Russian waters. The new channel enables them to access the lagoon straight from the Baltic Sea, making the route from the Gulf of Gdańsk to the port of Elblag drastically shorter. As a result, the port’s activities are boosted, as well as local employment and the economy.

Innovation

To reinforce the breakwaters, the innovative technology of XblocPlus elements was implemented, with the specially designed Transition XblocPlus to assemble them. Making their debut in Poland, these prefabricated innovative blocks can be recognised by their unique symmetrical shape. In combination with the hole in the middle of each block, the shape enables a quick, easy and safe installation from land. On top of that, less material is needed to make them and 50 % fewer blocks are required in total, as they interlock on all sides.

Apart from facilitating a safe installation, the hole in the middle also has another function: it reduces water pressure and increases stability, which makes the whole structure more resistant to climate change. Lastly, the elements are the perfect sustainable solution. Thanks to their special surface, marine life can thrive on the blocks, which makes them the ideal habitat for the fauna and flora of the area.

In total, nearly 10,000 XblocPlus elements were used to reinforce the breakwaters, equaling 21,400 m³.

Protecting the local wildlife

In addition to the artificial island serving as a bird sanctuary and the XblocPlus blocks that support marine life, the teams implemented a number of measures to take the utmost care of the surrounding fauna and flora. The marine equipment, for example, was adapted to reduce waves, vibrations and noise for underwater wildlife. The use of light, noise and vibrations have been strictly limited to minimise disturbance to nocturnal animals, while 100 bird and 57 bat houses have been installed. Finally, two special animal crossings have been foreseen through the channel, including two slopes covered with pebbles, gravel and local greenery, so animals can safely and easily get from one side to the other.

“We are incredibly happy to have delivered the new Vistula Spit navigation channel, which will generate important economic benefits for Poland. Delivering this strategic project on schedule would not have been possible without the open collaboration with our partner NDI. I would also like to thank the client, the Maritime Office of Gdańsk, for their trust in BESIX.” – Tomasz Szewczak, Project Manager at BESIX.

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