Lock operation time savings due to effective seals

Eric De Paauw

A quick history lesson: sometimes ships wanted to reach locations where there was no river, or a city had to be connected to a sea port. This is why canals were constructed. In other words, a canal is an artificial river. This means that water levels have to be maintained because sometimes the difference in water level between a river and a canal is several metres. It had to be possible for a boat to safely navigate from one level to the other. The navigation lock was the result and is the best-known implementation of a lock especially constructed for the shipping industry. This invention is attributed to Chiao Wei-yo, the engineer who in the 10th century worked on the Grand Canal system in China. The lock makes it possible to raise and lower a ship.

Seals for lock gates

Time is money, which is why it is important for the shipping industry to keep the waiting time at a lock and the lock’s operating time as short as possible. This places high demands on the gates and the seals used. The longer the doors continue to operate effectively and smoothly, the higher the gains for the shipping industry. Effectively operating seals can make an important contribution in this respect.


Lagersmit in the past has supplied complex solutions for several locks. For example, we supplied Supreme seals for the renovation of the Hansweert locks (1986) and for the renovation of the Roompot locks (2009). At the Hansweert locks, the seals operated without any problems for 20 years and in 2006, scheduled maintenance was performed during which the wear parts were replaced.

Project highlight: The Rotterdam park locks

In spite of scheduled maintenance over the years, opening and closing the huge lock gates of the Park Locks complex in Rotterdam regularly ran into problems. This is why it was decided to undertake a major renovation. During the renovation, the lock gates were equipped with air chambers and the rails across which the lock gates move back and forth were replaced. To guarantee a good end result, the operation was carried out in a dry environment. In 2015, Lagersmit was awarded a contract as part of the Rotterdam Park Locks complex renovation project.

The park locks in brief

Most locks are fully automated. The Park Locks in Rotterdam are no exception. The Park Locks consist of two navigation locks located in the shipping route between the Delfshavense Schie and the Nieuwe Maas River, connecting the Coolhaven with the Parkhaven in Rotterdam. The waterway is classified as CEMT Class III. The Park Locks form part of the Schieland’s main weir. The western Great Park Lock has rail-mounted electrically driven gates. The gate chambers are located between the two lock chambers. The east Minor Park Lock has rectangular vertical lift gates that are electrically gear-driven. The Park Locks are a National Monument in the making.


Hollandia Infra, under contract to Geka Bouw, supplied and installed the new operating mechanisms, i.e. the rail structure and the wheel assemblies on which the lock gates and the gate chambers run back and forth at the bottom of the lock. Lagersmit supplied 16 seals for this contract which were mounted on the wheel assemblies for these rolling gates. The customer and the contractor placed high demands on the Supreme seals in relation to maintenance and warranties.


Patrick Bos - Hollandia: “After various failures and repairs in the past, the customer decided to replace the operating mechanism for the gates with an indestructible, oversized construction. A crucial part that safeguards the movement of the wheel assemblies for the future is the seals that protect the bearings of the wheel assemblies. The decision was to use Lagersmit’s SUPREME SE-190 A-E-F-L seals. Lagersmit is a supplier of high-quality products, able to withstand severe conditions and based on a design that has since proven its functionality in the market.”


More information

For additional information about the use of seals in locks, contact us!

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