Inflatable Seal Maintenance Solution for World’s Largest Storm Surge Barrier

Pic by Bert Kaufmann, CC BY 2.0, no changes

With a length of 9 kilometers, the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier is the largest in the world and protects the Netherlands from the sea.

It was built after the devastating flood of the flood of 1953 that killed 1,835 people. After reclaiming the land from the sea, it was decided that a huge storm surge barrier would be built to protect the land that was about 5 meters below sea level. The creation of these barriers would ensure that the country would be safe from flooding for the first time in history.

The sea has been fighting the barrier since it was built. Therefore, maintenance is essential to ensure it stays in good condition. The problem lies in the fact that the crew has to be partially submerged for various maintenance work. They operate in 1 meter of seawater for long periods, which creates harsh working conditions, especially in bad weather. By creating a special inflatable seal only 40 mm wide with an expansion capability of 70 mm, we managed to turn it into a flexible moving dry area, allowing the crew to carry out their maintenance without running water.