French waterways authority Voies Navigable de France (VNF) has awarded a 12-year contract to a joint venture between engineering and consulting companies Royal HaskoningDHV and Setec Group to manage construction of the Seine-Nord Europe Canal.
Austrian waterway specialist Via Donau will act as a sub-consultant to the joint venture and support the team with in-depth expertise in river infrastructure management and operation.
The long-awaited canal will be 107 km long, 54 m wide, 4.5 m deep and include six locks, three channel bridges, new infrastructure and 55 million m³ of earthworks.
It will connect the Seine basin, near Paris, to the Scheldt, near Lille, giving access to Belgian and Dutch inland waterway networks. Designed for vessels up to 4,400 tonnes, it will eliminate a major bottleneck and provide links to six seaports, offering an alternative method of transporting freight with access into the heart of large urban areas.
The Seine-Nord Europe Canal project was identified by the European Union in early 2014 as one of five major projects of the Trans-European Multi-Modal Corridors, which has a budget of more than EUR20 billion for 2014-2020. Described as “an unprecedented commitment in terms of infrastructure”, the budget compares with EUR8 billion for the 2007-2013 period.
Speaking to IHS Maritime, Royal HaskoningDHV spokesman Ben Reeskamp described the Seine-Nord Europe Canal as, “an incredible project with major integral design challenges – technical and environment issues, stakeholder interactions and much more.
“Construction costs are in the same order as the Panama Canal extension project [USD5.25 billion] in which we were involved in a review and contracting phase. But here we are involved in the total stretch of 107 km, including the six new locks with water level differences up to 26 metres.
“The total project will probably be split into various contracts,” he continued, “so it’s probable that different canal sections will be contracted, along with locks, aqueducts, etc.
“VNF tried a PPP approach a few years back but that was not a success as the contractor combinations came up with a total price of about EUR7 billion. The approach is now again more traditional with ourselves and Setec responsible for total project management for the coming 12 years.
“We are now moving forward with the design processes and additional investigations,” Reeskamp noted, “and expect construction to start in 2017 for an opening in 2025 and an exploitation phase to 2027.”
Setec executive vice president Pierre Lescaut commented, “We are proud to have worked alongside VNF for more than 10 years, supporting the successive phases of development of this important project, long-awaited by stakeholders.
“Through its in-depth knowledge of the project needs, Setec was able to identify and put in place an expert team for this 12-year programme management mission – the joint venture with Royal HaskoningDHV constitutes the core of this formidable team.”