Leisure Sailing to Be Halted on Flemish Waterways Due to Drought & High Temperatures

As of Monday, August 22, leisure sailing is no longer possible on Belgian Flanders waterways, including places such as Ghent, which is known as a popular destination for those looking to enjoy a day out on the water.

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According to a press release issued by the Flemish Waterways authority, such boats will now only be able to pass through the locks along with commercial ships due to the long drought and continued warm temperatures, reports.

“In addition to these preventive interventions, the following effective measures are currently in force on the navigable waterways as a result of the drought. This overview is continuously updated,” reads the press release.

In this regard, the Authority’s spokeswoman Liliane Stinissen said that the impact would depend on where commercial traffic is carried out, adding that smaller channels without commercial traffic will not be closed.

Meanwhile, the waterways affected by the measure are the Dender upstream of Aalst or the Ypres-Iser canal.

“After the drought committee, it was decided that pleasure craft can only pass through locks, together with professional shipping. Depending on where there is commercial shipping, this has an impact. The smaller channels where there is no commercial shipping are not served,” spokeswoman Stinissen also noted.

In addition, long waits are also expected for pleasure craft at the locks on the following waterways:

  • Kanaalcholt-Herentals
  • Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten Canal
  • Zuid-Willemsvaart
  • Brigden-Neerharen Canal
  • The River Dijle
  • Plassendale-Nieuwpoort Canal
  • The River IJzer
  • The River Dender at Aalst Lock
  • The Leuven-Dijle Canal
  • The Charleroi Canal

The decision was taken immediately after consultation with the Drought Commission and was prompted by the drought and persistent heat in the dry summer and spring.

As the Flemish Waterways explains, during long periods of drought, the water level in watercourses can drop, and if this water level drops too much, water extraction from that watercourse can be stopped. According to the Authority, this is called a restriction ban. As a result, only the governor can impose or remove such a drought restriction ban.

According to the Belga news agency, foreign visitors’ overnight stays in Flanders doubled in July 2022 compared to last year, especially in cities such as Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, and Leuven.

The data shows that Flanders Tourism expects the number of overnight stays during the first month of the summer holidays to be 27 per cent higher than in July 2021.