The Antwerp pilot company Brabo celebrated the arrival of two brand new boats on Thursday to clean up the remains of oil disasters in the port of Antwerp. Together they cost about 6.5 million euros. “These are really two workhorses in the wet contracting business.”
Brabo Cleaning Company has been fighting oil pollution in Antwerp harbor water since 1996. This has been done through a public tender since 2015 and at the beginning of the year Brabo, with its headquarters at Asiadok and Noorderlaan, was awarded the Antwerp Port Authority contract for the second time. “We very quickly placed this order with Damen Shipyard in the Netherlands,” says Koen De Groof, commercial director of Brabo. “The Progress and the Neptune will replace two of our older ships.”
The two ships are bigger, more powerful, and they also emit about ten times less pollutants. “These are really two workhorses in the wet contracting business. Together they have 800 meters of oil retaining walls to contain the oil as quickly as possible in the event of an incident. Also new is a vacuum suction dredger, with which they can suck up oil and store it in a tank. We take the oil-water mixture to a recognized waste processor. In the past, oil was already chemically dissolved. That is no longer allowed. It has to be taken out of the water, which we almost always do mechanically.”
At 40 minutes on site
How does oil get into the water? “That can be for many reasons: a corroded tank of a ship, oil that leaks into the water from land, and so on,” says Koen De Groof. Brabo’s fleet is spread out in the port of Antwerp. According to the contract with the Antwerp Port Authority, the company must be able to be anywhere in the port in about forty minutes. “32 of our boatmen have also been trained to sail the ships for oil spills. So if something happens, some of them drop their regular jobs and rush to the ship. We will of course send replacements quickly.”
According to De Groof, Brabo has to go out about fifty times a year. “That can be a job of a few hours, but sometimes it’s also about to spill from a few days to several weeks.” The new, seaworthy ships were christened on Thursday, in the presence of a hundred people. Among them are also prominent figures from the port of Zeebrugge, with which Antwerp is merging. Are there ambitions to clean up oil incidents there too? “This contract only applies to Antwerp, but we are open to any work,” concludes De Groof.