An airport at sea becoming more viable

Article featured on AD sends positive message to the prospects of a floating Schiphol. Moving part of Schiphol to the North Sea is a serious option for further growth, says Schiphol boss Dick Benschop. Hydraulic engineers like it and see few technical objections.

Ever since the study by Boskalis in 1972, the idea has emerged: move Schiphol to the North Sea, so that the airport no longer causes nuisance and there is room for large-scale housing. Now that the airport is no longer allowed to grow any further, new Schiphol boss Dick Benschop is embracing the possibility again. 

“We are open to it,” said Benschop this weekend during a meeting with residents of the Haarlemmermeer. He is thinking of an IJvlakte off the coast of IJmuiden. 

Earlier this year also suggested D66, employers foreman Hans de Boer and community organizations the opportunity though. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen Minister (Infrastructure and Water) parliament then promised a quick scan which should appear next year together with a new Air Traffic Note. 

Hydraulic engineers and experts are pleased that the discussion is back on the map for the first time since the 2008 study by Van Oord and Royal Haskoning. “As Dutch people we make new land everywhere in the world,” says professor of hydraulic engineering Bas Jonkman. ,, Take the palm islands in Dubai and the Hong Kong airport. It would be nice to do such a big project in your own country, a new Delta works. “

Not difficult

There are few technical objections, says civil engineer John de Ronde. “Spraying islands is not difficult, we have a lot of experience with that,” says De Ronde. Twenty years ago, the expert was involved on behalf of Rijkswaterstaat in the study Flyland to a Schiphol in the North Sea. However, the investigation, started under Purple Kok II by Wim Kok, was stopped in 2003 by order of then State Secretary Melanie Schultz. 

Jonkman also does not foresee any problems, there are now airports in the sea at various places (Japan, Hong Kong) on ​​earth. There are different options. You can spray an island or make a polder with dikes that you partly fill with land. A floating island is a third option. “

A polder himself seems to be the best solution. An island requires large amounts of sand, the North Sea is tens of meters deep. A cubic meter costs 3 euros, so that will incur costs. With a polder you need less sand and the airport can be below sea level thanks to the protective dikes.

Fast train

The infrastructure is more difficult and especially there: passengers must be brought to Amsterdam or The Hague in a short time. “You have to construct a tunnel or a bridge to bring them ashore,” says De Ronde. ,, That should not take too long, so a fast train is needed. If you can limit the travel time to around ten minutes, such an airport is simply an extra terminal at Schiphol. ” 

Jonkman calls an HSL or a magnetic glider train. The hyperloop is called very optimistic. “The faster the means of transport, the further you can build at sea.” That is how the expected objections of coastal municipalities to horizon pollution can be (partly) overcome. The disadvantage is, of course, that further construction is much more expensive. That will quickly run into the tens of billions of euros.

Another complication is that the North Sea is now full of wind farms. There is therefore less room for a possible airport. “All kinds of interests also play a role, such as the environment and fishing,” says TU professor Jonkman.

A lot of time

It is furthermore clear that the (partial) relocation of Schiphol requires a lot of time. First, extensive study must be done, which will certainly take about three years. The quick scan of Minister Nieuwenhuizen is not sufficient for this. Then everything has to be planned. All in all, it takes at least ten years before construction can begin.

Hydraulic engineers Jonkman and De Ronde are nevertheless enthusiastic about the idea. “It would be the largest project since the Delta Works,” they both say. The advancing technology is another advantage compared to the past. “The knowledge has improved considerably in the last twenty years,” says De Ronde.

“The faster the transport, the further you can build at sea”

Prof. Bas Jonkman, Professor of Hydraulic Engineering at TU Delft

Both emphasize, however, that a Schiphol in the North Sea is a political choice. ,, Of course you don’t have to. Politicians must consider whether relocation is worth the costs and costs. “

This post was translated to English from a column by David Bremmer on ad.nl

Image: An artist impression from the plan that dredgers Van Oord and Royal Haskoning made for a Schiphol in the sea in 2008 © Royal HaskoningDHV

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