Floating Schiphol is good for everyone, even the fish

Blue21: Floating Schiphol is good for everyone, even the fish


Schiphol at sea is slowly but surely coming into the picture again as a future perspective for aviation.

The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen has expressed concerns over the technical challenges and costs of constructing the expansion to the airport by means of reclaimed sand or polder. Roland Goetgeluk and Rutger de Graaf, however, propose an alternative solution; a floating airport.

The public debate about the future of Schiphol has completely erupted again. Local residents’ associations and D66 suggest that Schiphol at sea is a solution for stranded Schiphol.

Technically, socially and legally, it is far more possible than the minister thinks. The integral social cost-benefit analysis will be beneficial. There is also, of course, an alternative: from stranded Schiphol to floating Schiphol.

On May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy gave his famous Moon Shot Speech: “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” The rest is history and the U.S.A. is still revelling in its accomplishment.

Google successfully uses the moonshot strategy. The core of this strategy and its operations is simple: think of a major problem in the medium-long term, think of radical solutions and use ground-breaking knowledge. Reasoned attempts is about trial and error. We do not solve new problems with conventional solutions.

Based on a growth strategy, maintaining Schiphol in the Haarlemmermeer is not an option in the longer term. Noise pollution, fuel tanks, congestion and so on lead to public uproar and riots. Groningen shows the power of the masses. Flevoland as well. ‘It is the economy, stupid’ will not always apply. Slowing down is an expensive economic and political cost.

The growth of the national aviation sector is only possible if a radically innovative solution is chosen. Aviation must be CO2 neutral and not cause any inconvenience. The water offers unprecedented opportunities for this. By placing an airport at sea, the flight paths can also largely take place over the sea and do not cause any inconvenience. Around the floating airport, enough biofuels can be produced by means of floating algae and seaweed plantations to fuel the Schiphol fleet.

Why float and not land reclamation? Research with underwater drones shows that ecology remains under floating platforms and sometimes even strengthened. In the case of land reclamation, the aquatic ecology disappears. With a floating airport you also retain the flexibility to move further in the future. After all, Schiphol was once also a sea, so who knows what needs will exist in future? Finally, a floating airport adapts to rising sea levels and is therefore a climate-adaptive solution.

Floating Schiphol can be connected to Amsterdam and Rotterdam with lightning fast connections with a travel time of less than 20 minutes. An example of such a connection based on vacuum tubes is the Hyperloop system. This is an initiative of Tesla boss Elon Musk, where TU Delft is working on.

Around Schiphol, other functions can be added such as artificial reefs, energy storage and logistics. This creates an iconic project in which the Netherlands can put itself on the map internationally as a water and innovation country.

Dr. ir. Rutger de Graaf (@degraaf_e) & Dr. Roland Goetgeluk (@RolandGoetgeluk)

Goetgeluk and De Graaf are both part of The Thinktank Governance of Floating Cities, which consists of technical, social and legal scientists and entrepreneurs.

This article appeared in slightly adapted form in Stadszaken: https://www.stadszaken.nl/ruimte/gebiedsontwikkeling/1591/drijvend-schiphol-goed-voor-iedereen