Unique tow truck for testing ships up to 400 meters


Consmema in Hattemerbroek has built a tow truck for the maritime research center in Ostend. The Flemish government, together with the KULeuven and Ghent University, will conduct research into the influence of waves, tides and wind on ships and objects in the sea. The tow truck is unique of its kind worldwide and was delivered turnkey at the end of 2022.

Machinefabriek Boessenkool expertises
Boessenkool has a lot of experience with large-scale projects. The milling work of this project, with a length of more than 20 meters in one setup, was once again a fine example of craftsmanship. Add to this the specialized lifting, tilting and hoisting operations for the 4.5 meter height and the 3.5 meter unloading, and our expertise comes into its own. Our Juaristi Floortype boring machine was used for this project. Download or view more information about our entire machine park here.

Impressive numbers and specifications

  • The new towing tank in Ostend is for testing ships up to 400 meters and 25,000 containers
  • The new towing tank for which the towing truck was built is 174 meters long and 20 meters wide 
  • The only one in the world for testing in shallow water of 1 m deep with ship models up to 8 meters long and 1.5 meters wide, generating waves with an amplitude of up to 20 centimeters 
  • The tow truck resembles a fully automatic train set, the construction weighs almost 100 tons, is 23 meters wide, almost 4 meters high and can tow ship models through the water at high speed.

Due to the low water level and the fact that the tests take place on a scale, the car must be very stiff and the axles must be built extremely accurately. In order to be able to steer the scale models in the towing tank in all directions, the towing truck is equipped with axles for lateral, height and rotational movement. “You could say that we are building a mega-large milling machine with a stroke of 174 meters in the X direction and 20 meters in the Y direction,” says director Johan Kooij of Consmema.  

Up to 25,000 sea containers
The towing tank for which the Consmema towing vehicle is being built is 174 meters long and 20 meters wide, making it a lot larger than the current towing tank of the Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory of the Flemish government in Antwerp. It was built in 1991 for testing ships with a length of up to 300 meters and a capacity for 5,000 containers. Many current ships are over 400 meters and have a capacity for 25,000 containers. Consmema completely assembled the tow truck in Hattemerbroek, after which it was partially dismantled for transport to Ostend.

About the maritime research center
The maritime research center is located on the grounds of Plassendale 1, in the inner harbor of Ostend, and is part of the Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory (WL), a department of the Department of Mobility and Public Works. The WL has been an expertise center for research and advice on hydraulic engineering, nautical, hydraulic, sediment-related and hydrological issues for more than 80 years. The Flemish government, together with Ghent University and KULeuven, will conduct essential research for shipping and the accessibility of the Flemish seaports.

More information
Read more about this tow truck project:

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