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Petrol and heating oil supply issues in the capital if Brussels-Scheldt Canal remains closed to shipping

Petrol and heating oil supply issues in the capital if Brussels-Scheldt Canal remains closed to shipping

Friday’s collision between a ship and the Buda Bridge on the Brussels-Schedt Sea Canal at Neder-over-Heembeek (Brussels) could threaten supplies of petrol and heating oil in the capital. Supplies of fuel are shipped along the canal to the Port of Brussels. However, since Friday’s accident access to and from the port from the north has been blocked as engineers try to raise the damaged lift bridge.

Raising the bridge and reopening the canal to shipping are the top priorities for the Port of Brussels Authority. This morning (Monday) experts will once again examine ways to raise the damaged lift bridge. 

Normally the bridge that carries traffic over the canal to and from Neder-over-Heembeek is raised regularly to allow shipping to pass. However, for the past three day the bridge has been stuck after it was hit by a large cargo barge on Friday afternoon. Cargo barges transport building material, containers of goods such as clothing and food and also fuel to the capital. If the canal doesn’t reopen today the security of fuel supplies to Brussels will be threatened. 

Today the bridge’s cables will be loosened and the section of the bridge that carries the road dismantled and taken away. It is still too early to say how long this will take. Needless to say reopening the bridge is very important for the Port of Brussels as the current situation means that there is no access to the port for shipping coming from the north.

Lorries rather than ships

Supplies of petrol, diesel and heating oil will be the first to come under threat if the canal doesn’t reopen. Around 17% of households in Brussels are heated by oil. The Port of Brussels’ Sylvain De Godefroid told the Brussels regional news site Bruzz that supply companies keep three days’ worth of supplies of heating oil. 

If stocks become exhausted oil suppliers will first seek other modes of transport. Mr Godefroid told Bruzz that they are already examining the possibility of getting their oil delivered by lorry “But compared with using a cargo barge this is an alternative that causes much more pollution".

Meanwhile, around 10 ships are unable to leave the port. This would probably have been more if the accident had happened during a normal week and not on the Friday between Christmas and New Year. 

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