Case Studies: OW-plan Oostende-Integrated Coastal and Maritime Plan for Oostende, Belgium

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Project Overview
Figure 1: OW-plan Oostende-Integrated Coastal and Maritime Plan for Oostende, Belgium
OW-plan Oostende-Integrated Coastal and Maritime Plan for Oostende, Belgium
Project Type: Both
Type of Project Financing: Public
Contract duration: approximately 9 years (breakwaters’ contract duration)
Budget: 69.931.156,66 Million EUR (This budget includes only Construction Costs of the breakwaters.)
Project Time Line
May 2007 – 2015: Contract duration of the breakwaters
22 June 2007: Approval of environmental plan
June 2007: Environmental Impact Report drafted
14 December 2007: Act-taking Flemish Government
27 January 2010: Granting phase of West dam finished
26 April 2010: Start of construction of western port dam and deepening of the sailing track
June 2010: Ships can sail via the new access route
2012: Two breakwaters-dams completed (by DEME)
End 2013: Planned beach nourishments completed
September 2013- November 2014: Construction of the walking parts of the breakwaters


The works for an improved port approach are part of the Public Works Plan which is threefold: (1) Coastal defence: protecting the centre of Ostend against floods; (2) Enable all types of vessels to enter Ostend port- improve access to the harbour; (3) Tackle port infrastructural works in a unified way (Mobiliteit en Openbare Werken and Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust , 2014).

The need for an improved harbour access resulted in the design of two new breakwaters in Ostend (Verhaeghe, 2010). Ostend is situated in the middle of the Belgian coastline. Although for many centuries, Ostend was one of the most important ports at the Southern North Sea, today, it has a relatively small port. In order to make the port accessible for ships with a length up to 200m, important modification works on the port access were necessary. Studies have led to a new design of the port access, in which the old (curved) access defined by two wooden piers, is replaced by a new access channel perpendicular to the coast line together with the construction of two breakwaters (Gysens et al., 2010).

For tackling the sea protection, the city of Ostend will build a growth beach. In front of the seaboard, a big beach is being made. During storms, the waves are broken at this beach instead of hitting the seaboard at full force. With this, the protection level of Ostend is increased up to a 100-year storm (until level +7m at the foot of the seaboard). The ultimate goal is to protect the city against a heavy storm with a return period of 1000 years. When protecting against this event, a maximum between 0 and 1 litres of sea water per second and per m of seaboard can flow into the city (Deme, 2014).

Although the project is threefold, this analysis focuses mostly on the construction of the two breakwaters.

The Contracting Authority (Public Party)

The Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services of the Flemish Government and the City of Oostende compose the contracting authority.

Sources of Financing

This is a purely public infrastructure project, which means that 100% of financing comes from the Public. The Flemish government invested 69.931.156,66 mlns euro for the construction of the two breakwaters without expecting any direct revenues to recover the investment (Goemaere, 2015).


The direct users of this infrastructure are the companies that will be able to port larger transport ships. In addition, considering that the protection of the centre of Ostend against floods is also taken into account, then direct users are also the inhabitants and retailers of the Ostend city centre, who will be protected against the floods.

Other stakeholders/indirect users are: 1) the Flemish Government, 2) companies trading with Ostend, 3) employees of the port of Ostend and 4) companies in Ostend centre (mix type of users: companies and freight).

During the elaboration of the Master Plan, particular attention was given to communication and stakeholder participation (including questionnaire, presentations, brochures, newsletter, etc.). Stakeholders’ consultation was in particular carried out by means of a steering committee and an advisory board. The steering committee consisted of representatives of different governments and administrations at provincial, Flemish and Belgian level. The advisory board consisted of direct and local stakeholders, such as representatives of: the coastal communities and towns, nature organisations, yacht clubs, beach clubs and the local economy including horeca (hotel, restaurant and catering). The same consultation bodies were also involved during the implementation phase of the Master Plan measures (Pauwels, 2014).

Project Timing

The contract for the construction of the breakwaters was signed and awarded in May 2007. One month later, the environmental plan was approved. In 2012, the two breakwaters/dams were completed by DEME and from September 2013 until November 2014, the walking parts of the breakwaters were constructed.

The GDP per capita, income per capita and the unemployment rate of the region during the time of data collection (2011, 2013& 2014) was in line with the expectations at project award (2007)(Eurostat, 2015b).

Project Locality and Market Geography

The locality of the project is interurban (Goemaere, 2015). The infrastructure investments concern the city of Ostend, the beach and the port that are within the city itself.

In the region (West-Flanders) where the breakwaters are located, the population density at the time of data collection (2013) was higher than the density at project award time (2007) (Eurostat, 2015a). The level of industrialization and of economic activities during the time of data collection was higher than the level of industrialization at the time of project award. Specific production activities, such as energy-windmills, which were not foreseen when the project was planned, started in the region (Goemaere, 2015).

Procurement & Contractual Structure


A “traditional” procurement contract known as “bid build” was used. On the one hand, the contract for building/constructing the breakwaters was awarded to DEME. On the other hand, the Public Authority was in charge of the maintenance and operation of the breakwaters. The project is 100% financed by the Public authority (Flemish Government). It is not only the construction of the breakwaters that is financed by public funds, but also the maintenance and operation. Contractors were invited to submit tenders/bids for the construction of the project. An open call took place. A pre-selection took place based on an ‘Open Call” and at the 1st stage there were three candidates/bidders and five bidders in the negotiations (Goemaere, 2015).

Contract Structure

The type of contract used for the construction of the breakwaters, or at least the type of the “biggest” contract was a “unit cost contract”. The duration of this contract was 36 months and the value was 80 million euro (Goemaere, 2015).

Risk Allocation

Risks linked to the construction, maintenance and exploitation of the breakwaters and also revenue, financial, regulatory and force majeure risks are allocated as depicted in Figure 2. Based on the latter, all risks (design, maintenance, exploitation, financial, regulatory & force majeure) apart from the construction one are totally public. Only the construction risk was born by the private sector/contractor (Goemaere, 2015).

Figure 2: Risk allocation


No performance indicators were explicitly stated in the contract. In order to measure the performance of the project, the following indicators are examined: reliability, availability, maintainability, safety, security and user satisfaction. Reliability and availability were improved fully in line with expectations or even more, maintenance costs are below expectations and safety was improved fully in line with expectations or even more. Regarding end users’ satisfaction, more than 50% of end users are very satisfied (Goemaere, 2015).

Regarding the performance respect to project costs, there were 20% cost overruns. The reasons for these cost overruns are the following: (1) the ground investigation could not be done; (2) the port soil was very poor and also the port entrance was of poor standards. (3)There was an increase of the investment costs due to changes of design standards, made due to the poor soil condition.

Last but not least, there was no delay in completion of works or opening of operation (Goemaere, 2015).

Project Outcomes

The general level of the project’s perceived success is high. The “Critical Success Factors” that contribute in making the whole Master Plan project (construction of breakwaters and beach nourishment) a successful case, are described in the following.

The project is judged successful when all project goals materialize within an acceptable term. The main success factors are: protecting the city of Ostend against a 1000-year storm and opening up the port to ships of up to 200m length (Verhaeghe et al, 2010).

On the contrary, it could be said that a limiting factor of the project could be the fact that “the coastal protection Master Plan” project is rather ambitious and therefore requires continuous engagement and technical-financial support. This is required in the future so as not to limit the full implementation of identified measures. Particular attention is also intended to be given to the monitoring and assessment of potential ecological effects of planned interventions, including beach nourishment in particular (Pauwels, 2014).

The project’s outcomes and success are going to be also measured through the main project purpose for the Contracting Authority. This means that if the main project purpose is reducing the travel time and this goal is achieved, then positive project outcomes could be considered. The main reason for implementing the project is to improve the reliability of transportation, even if the purpose of the general Master Plan project is to improve the safety of the city of Oostende. Regarding the achievement of other goals, after constructing the breakwaters, travel time and travel costs were not improved or only marginally improved, whereas reliability was improved fully in line with expectations or even more and safety was improved only partially in line with expectations (Goemaere, 2015).

Economic Impact

1. Besides the port entrance protection, two other objectives were aimed at the same time: the new breakwaters were designed to improve the Ostend Centre coastal defences and to increase port capacity. The new breakwaters made the port more accessible to vessels with a length of up to 200 m, instead of the 150 to 160 m previously (economic development). In the past, vessels had to navigate an elongated S-shaped approach route to enter Ostend port. Only vessels up to 160 metres were able to do so, bigger vessels did not have sufficient manoeuvring space (DEME, Dredging, Environmental & Marine Engineering, 2014).

2. It is expected that the new harbour dam will reduce the requirement for maintenance of beach nourishment to once every five to ten years (Pauwels, 2014).

3. Wider beaches and the design of sea walls that optimise their integration in the existing coastal space will likely generate benefits in terms of tourism (Pauwels, 2014).

4. By means of the Masterplan Coastal Safety 206919, the Coastal Division wants to protect the coast from at least a 1,000-year storm surge, and wants to reduce the residual risk of serious economic damage and casualties, based on a cost/benefit approach. The plan has been gradually executed since 2011 (Verwaest et al. 2013).

5. The implementation of the Master Plan was socially and economically necessary. The damage and suffering caused by flooding are incalculable. An indicative example is the catastrophic flood in 1953 in Ostende. Economic damage can amount to a few billion euros in the case of superstorms and there may be thousands of victims. This impact is considered as a social impact as well.

6. Economic viability of the port of Ostend: The OW plan Ostend guarantees the future economic viability of the port of Ostend by realizing port access to vessels with a length of 200 meters, by protecting Ostend against flooding and by realizing an integrated management of the coastal zone of Ostend.

Social Impact

7. One of the objectives of the project was the following: the new breakwaters were designed to improve the Ostend Centre coastal defences (improving the well-being of the inhabitants).

8. The main Master Plan goal is, i.e. to protect coastal communities against storm events with an annual probability of 0.1%, under current condition and the case of sea level rise (up to 30 cm by 2050). Coastal protection implies the maintenance of coastal human actives, including in particular: residential use of the coastal space, tourism, harbour and industrial activities (Pauwels John, 2014).

9. The coastal protection measures and the design of the western breakwater had to be integrated in the historical city context during the Environmental Impact Assessment Studies (EIA-process) (Gysens et al.2010).

10. Wide stakeholder participation, during both the design and implementation phases of the Master Plan (Pauwels, 2014).

Environmental Impact

Regarding the environmental impact, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the whole project was prepared and approved in June 2007. The environmental impact assessment showed that environmental compensation for the project in Ostend was necessary. Measures needed to be taken to mitigate the environmental impact of the overall project.

The EIA plan considered that there were no alternatives to the OW plan that helped avoid degradation of the natural environment. The most significant adverse effects of the OW plan were those expected by the disappearance of 26 hectares of intertidal area on the western shore of Ostend.


  • DEME, Dredging, Environmental & Marine Engineering (2014) Port of Ostend, new breakwaters | Dredging International | DEME Group |, Retrieved June 26, 2015, from
  • Eurostat. (2015a) Home - Eurostat. Retrieved June 25, 2015, from
  • Eurostat. (2015b) Home - Eurostat_1. Retrieved June 25, 2015, from
  • Goemaere J. (2015) Department Mobility and Public Works: interview.
  • Gysens S., De Rouck J., Trouw K., BollE A. and Willems M. (2010) Integrated Coastal And Maritime Plan For Oostende Design Of Soft And Hard Coastal Protection Measures During The Eia Procedures
  • Mobiliteit en Openbare Werken and Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust (2014) New fairway for Ostend Port, from
  • Pauwels J. (2014) Implementation of the integrated Master Plan for Coastal Safety in Flanders (2014), Retrieved June 26, 2015, from
  • Verhaeghe H. Van Damme L., Goemaere J., De Rouck J. and Van Alboom W. (2010) “Construction Of Two New Breakwaters At Ostend Leading To An Improved Harbour Access”
  • Verwaest, T., DeWolf, P., Mertens, T., Mostaert, F. and Pirlet, H., (2013)Safety against flooding, In: Lescrauwaet, A.K., Pirlet, H., Verleye, T., Mees, J., Herman, R. (Eds.), Compendium for Coast and Sea 2013: integrating knowledge on the socio-economic, environmental and institutional aspects of the Coast and Sea in Flanders and Belgium. Oostende, Belgium, p. 219-230.