Consmema construct new towing tank for maritime research center Ostend (Belgium)


Consmema located in Hattemerbroek build a towing tank for the maritime research center in Ostend. The Flemish government, together with KULeuven and UGent, are conducting research on the influence of waves, tides and wind on vessels and objects in the sea. The tow vehicle is unique in the world and as delivered turn-key by the end of 2022.

The research facility in Ostend includes a large towing tank and a coastal and ocean basin. The towing tank is the only one in the world in which fully automatic maneuvering tests can be carried out in shallow water with ship models up to 8 meters long. In the maximum water depth of 1 meter, waves can be generated with an amplitude of up to 20 centimeters. The tow vehicle that Consmema will build resembles a fully automated train set. The structure weighs nearly 100 tons, is 23 meters wide, nearly 4 meters high and can tow ship models through the water at high speed.

Because of the low water level and the required scale of the tests, this vehicle must be very stiff and the axles must be built with extreme precision. To allow the scale models in the towing tank to move in all directions, the towing tank is equipped with axles for lateral movement, elevation and rotation. “It is like building a mega-large milling machine with a stroke of 174 meters in the X direction and 20 meters in the Y direction,” says Consmema director Johan Kooij.

Towing tank unique in the world

The towing tank for which Consmema’s tow vehicle is being built is 174 meters long and 20 meters wide. This is a lot larger than the current towing tank at the Flemish government’s Hydraulic Laboratory in Antwerp. This was built in 1991 for testing ships up to 300 meters long and with a capacity for 5,000 containers. Many current ships are over 400 meters and have a capacity for 25,000 containers. Consmema will assemble the complete tow vehicle in its premises in Hattemerbroek, after which it will be partially disassembled and transported to Ostend.

About the maritime research center

The maritime research center is located on the grounds of Plassendale 1, in the inner port of Ostend, and is part of the Hydraulic Laboratory, a division of the Department of Mobility and Public Works. For more than 80 years, this laboratory has been a centre of expertise for research and consulting on hydraulic, nautical, hydraulic, sediment-related and hydrological issues. The Flemish government, together with UGent and KULeuven, conduct essential research for shipping and the accessibility of the Flemish seaports.

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Partner for Industrial Automation of this Towing Tank: (

The control of the towing tank was made by VSE Industrial Automation in collaboration with Controllab as an expert in HIL simulation. The functioning of the control system, including the safety system and the accuracy of the control, is first tested completely virtually on the basis of a virtual twin, without the need for the real towing tank. Operators are involved in these tests to gain experience with the controls. Through virtual testing, we guarantee that the control works exactly as requested by Flanders Hydraulics Research and the commissioning time is shortened.


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Consmema construct new towing tank for maritime research center Ostend (Belgium)