Port of Antwerp installs smart bollards with sensors

Digital solution enhances safety at quay walls

Port of Antwerp installs smart bollards with sensors
Photo: Port of Antwerp

Port of Antwerp and technology company Zensor are joining forces to increase safety at the quay walls. 

Zensor developed the Bollard Monitor, a digital sensor that measures the tension on a bollard. The first five Bollard Monitors have been installed at the North Sea Terminal, and five more are planned shortly.

The port of Antwerp has some 120.6km of quay walls and 7,000 mooring posts and bollards. This is where ships attach their ropes when mooring up. This way, ships do not move about during loading and unloading. In windy or stormy conditions, the ropes of large seagoing vessels exert an enormous tractive force on the mooring posts and bollards. Bollards, with their bolt or anchor connections, are more sensitive than mooring masts in this respect. If such a bollard – 650kg of steel – were to come loose, there is a risk that a ship could drift away or that people would be injured. Regular inspection and maintenance are therefore required.

In order to measure the tension in the bolt connection of bollards and to warn if a bollard is in danger of coming loose or breaking, Port of Antwerp launched a call in 2020 to devise a digital system for this purpose. Out of the five entries, the ‘Bollard Monitor’ by the Brussels technology company Zensor was chosen as the winner. The Bollard Monitor consists of two built-in sensors, which measure the tension and tension fluctuations on the mounting system. Every 15 minutes, the system sends the information, which is permanently recorded, via a wireless connection and visualises it via a dashboard. This data will help the operational department to optimise the preventative maintenance of the bollards.

Tom Cornelissen, Sales Manager at Zensor, said:

“Zensor makes the bollards at the port of Antwerp intelligent. Instead of on-site checks, the sensors will automatically and immediately indicate when the bolt connections of bollards are being overloaded. The technical services at the Antwerp Port Authority can view the actual load on the bollards live via the online Zensor platform. The system will send out an alert if a bolt comes loose. This is not only much more efficient for maintenance, it also increases safety. The measured data from the bollards is linked to operational data from the Port Authority. The intelligent processing of this combined data provides additional insights and context about the load on these bollards."

Erwin Verstraelen, PoA, said:

"As part of our vision to lay a digital nervous system over the physical port, we have installed sensors on a number of bollards. With this, we want to measure the impact of large pulls, which will help us to plan maintenance more efficiently. A great example of how we use innovation and partnerships to increase safety at our port.”

Annick De Ridder, port alderman, said:

"With this piece of innovation, we are not only making our port safer and more efficient, but we can also be a source of inspiration for other ports. By continuing to use our port as a testing ground for technological innovation, we will continue to play a pioneering role here."