First 16-metre draft trial successful

The first trial run with maximum permitted draught on the Western Scheldt has been successfully carried out. Indeed, the MSC Tessa entered the Port of Antwerp this morning with a draft of 16 metres, a new record. It is the latest in a series of six trial runs where the draft was increased from 15.7 to 16 metres. This draught is needed to continue receiving the very largest container ships in the future. The pilot project is a collaboration between the Flemish and Dutch Pilotage Services, shipping company MSC, the Joint Nautical Authority and Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

In order to allow even the very largest seagoing vessels to use Antwerp as their first port of call in the future, a draught on approach of 16 metres is needed. It was therefore decided to carry out a series of trial runs in which the maximum draught is systematically increased to 16 metres. Increasing the authorised draught significantly increases the cargo capacity of the vessels. These extra decimetres could yield +/- 1,000 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) gains.

On 1 March 2021, the MSC Regulus entered the port with a draft of 15.7 metres and on 9 July 2022, the record was broken again with a draft of 15.9 metres with the MSC Diletta. So on Monday 2 October 2023, the first trial run, with a draft of 16 metres, was successfully conducted with the MSC Tessa. The ship entered the port from Portugal, thus breaking the depth record in the Deurganck dock.

The pilot project is a collaboration between the Flemish pilots of the Agency for Maritime Services and Coast (MDK) the Dutch pilots, shipping company MSC, the Joint Nautical Authority (GNA), traffic controllers and Port of Antwerp-Bruges. The widening applies only to container ships sailing to the Deurganck dock.

Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and President of the board of directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges: “This successful first trial in the Deurganck dock is a milestone for our port. For our global economic position and the prosperity of current and future generations, it is essential that we can continue to receive the largest container ships. A draught of 16m allows us to profile ourselves even more strongly in the Far East, where the largest ships sail. This will strengthen our position as the first port of call. This gives us a competitive advantage and consolidates our position as a world port.”
Nathalie Balcaen, Administrator-General of the Agency for Maritime Services and Coast: “Glad to be able to contribute to the accessibility of the port of Antwerp from MDK. Thanks to our partners in the nautical chain and the expertise of our own services such as the Pilotage, Shipping Assistance and Flemish Hydrography.”
Marc Beerlandt, CEO MSC Belgium: “MSC welcomes the fact that our longstanding demand, to be able to get by with a greater draught at our home base, the port of Antwerp, is being acted upon and this is now finally being tested further. It is evident that the shipping company wants to maximise the vessels’ performance to and from its European hub. ​ We thank the pilots and port authorities for helping to make this happen.”