User Story

Understanding flow velocities to keep navigation channels open in sediment-rich Dutch waters

A high rate of sediment deposition makes maintaining narrow navigational channels through the shallow tidal flats of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands a constant battle. Nortek instruments, including the vessel-mounted Signature VM, have proved to be valuable weapons in the fight, providing vital data on particle density and current flows through the water layers.

God created Earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands, according to the old Dutch joke. It’s hard to disagree when you see the impact of measures through the centuries to reclaim and protect the country’s low-lying land from the sea, largely through the construction of dikes.

However, this activity is not without its side effects.

The construction of the Afsluitdijk, a 32 km dike through the IJsselmeer and Wadden Sea, has resulted in a major morphological shift in the Dutch section of the Wadden Sea, one of the world’s largest tidal flats systems, which stretches from the Netherlands to Denmark.


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Nortek’s vessel-mounted ADCP current survey package – called Signature VM –opens up new and unprecedented opportunities to ocean researchers, while offering operational convenience and reduced complexity.

Off the northern Dutch coast, the sea bottom is rising and navigation channels for ferries are rapidly clogging up with sediments. The route for the ferry crossing between Holwerd and the island of Ameland needs to be dredged around the clock to keep it accessible. Near the village of Holwerd, sedimentation rates of up to 6 m a year are frequently reached. Total dredging volumes exceeded 1.5 million m³ in 2018.

WaterProof Marine Consultancy & Services was asked by the Dutch Ministry of Public Works to monitor and assess the possible impact of dredging a shortcut in the navigation channel.

Due to the constant erosion and sedimentation process, the channel to Ameland had meandered considerably from its original route, increasing the journey distance and time, and adding to fuel costs and CO2 emissions in the process.

However, dredging the shortcut for the ferry channel would change the hydromorphological conditions, so the operation needed to be carefully monitored to assess its efficiency and any wider long-term impact.


Vessel-mounted ADCP provides crucial data

WaterProof needed to measure existing sedimentation levels and water currents in and around the channels as part of its analysis. The consultancy firm turned to Nortek, selecting the company’s Signature acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) to carry out the task, including the vessel-mounted Signature VM.

Data gathered by the Signature VM provided accurate insight into flow velocities over the water column at the channel transects. It also showed sediment concentrations in the water over the tidal cycle. These continuously varied with depth.

This knowledge has helped provide better understanding of the morphological system and will improve the efficiency of future mitigation measures to keep the navigation channel open.


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Data gathered by the Signature VM provided accurate insight into the flow velocities over the water column at the ferry channels near Ameland in the Netherlands.

WaterProof’s Luitze Perk says: “Nortek advised us on suitable equipment for our extensive field campaign and delivered the right acoustic instrumentation for the job. Our bottom frames were equipped with Signature ADCP instrumentation to gain information about water flow, water level and (in combination with an optical sensor) suspended sediment concentrations over a two-month period.”

See video: How a vessel-mounted ADCP helps keep a Dutch navigation channel open

WaterProof took measurements using stationary Nortek Signature1000 ADCPs, as well as the simple-to-use Signature VM vessel-mounted instrument. The Signature VM has found favor with clients due to its ability to rapidly provide high data quality from its five-beam array, accurately measuring both currents and depth, while being designed for easy operation.

The vessel-mounted instrument played a key role in establishing the spatial distribution of velocities, sediment concentrations and tidal prisms (the volume of water moved between low and high tide) across the navigation channels.

“The vertical beam of this vessel-mounted system provides us with a high-resolution echograph, encompassing the entire water column from the water surface to the bottom of the sea, where the highest concentration of sediments can be expected,” Perk adds.


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WaterProof used ADCPs from Nortek to help measure existing sedimentation levels and water currents in and around ferry channels going to the island of Ameland in the Netherlands.

Additional flow measurements in laboratory flume

Sediment samples were taken back to WaterProof’s lab for additional flow flume measurements, where Nortek instrumentation was also used. A velocimeter from Nortek was employed to determine local, near-bed flow velocities.

“We’re pleased how Nortek supported us throughout the campaign, making it possible to gather extensive and useful data,” Perk says.

Thanks to these field and lab studies, the Dutch authorities now have WaterProof’s solidly based advice on measures likely to be needed to keep the ferry navigation channel to Ameland open.


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The easy-to-use vessel-mounted Signature VM played a significant role in determining the spatial distribution of velocities, sediment concentrations and tidal prisms across the navigation channels.

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