River Scheldt

About River Scheldt

With its many bends and meanders, the Western Scheldt is one of the most difficult to navigate rivers in the world.

About us

With its many bends and meanders, the Western Scheldt is one of the most difficult to navigate rivers in the world. It connects the ports of Antwerp, Flushing, Ghent and Terneuzen with the North Sea. The registered pilots of the Scheldemonden region see to it that the tens of thousands of ships visiting these ports each year are piloted safely and smoothly into and out of these ports. They do this under all weather conditions, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The registered pilots of the Scheldemonden region are active in all ports on the Western Scheldt as well as in the Eastern Scheldt area. A percentage of 27.5 of all the ships bound for Antwerp and Ghent are piloted by the Dutch pilots; the remaining 72.5 per cent are handled by the Flemish pilots. In total a number of 160 Dutch pilots work in the Western Scheldt area. They provide the piloting of approximately 21,000 ships into and out of the Scheldt ports every year.

Safely and smoothly

The close cooperation between the Flemish and Dutch pilots commences near the entrances to the Scheldt estuary. Dutch registered pilots on the river Scheldt carry out their duties at sea and on the Terneuzen-Ghent Canal, or at sea and the river Scheldt to Antwerp. Because of the overlapping system of pilot's licences, the organisation can adequately respond to peak demands. There is a pilot change at Flushing Roads. For the changing of pilots we have at our disposal two Flemish and one Dutch pilot tender. The Dutch pilot tender, with its maximum speed of 28 knots, together with the Flemish pilot tenders safely and smoothly carry out the changing of pilots. Embarkation or disembarkation of pilots at sea is carried out via the large pilot station vessels. The Flemish Pilot Organisation carries out these operations for the Wandelaar pilot station; the Dutch Pilot Organisation does this for the Steenbank pilot station.

The best possible service

Pilot stations are situated at two locations near the entrances to the Scheldt estuary. The Flemish pilot station Wandelaar is situated near Ostend and the Dutch pilot station Steenbank at 12 nautical miles from Westkapelle. At both locations large pilot station vessels, Swaths and fast launch craft are permanently available; they transport pilots to and from seagoing ships under conditions up to wave heights of 3.5 metres. A registered pilot, acting as Pilot Steenbank, in close cooperation with a VTS operator, employed by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, carry out vessel traffic services from the Scheldt Coordination Centre at Flushing. They provide traffic guidance and traffic management to create an optimal logistic chain operation from sea to berth.

During adverse weather conditions, there is an option to organise pilotage services for several categories of smaller sized vessels via shore-based pilotage (SBP). With SBP the pilot does not carry out his work on board the ship but from the shore, using shore-based radar and VHF. SBP is carried out from the Scheldt Coordination Centre in cooperation with the VTS. As soon as the ship has been guided closer inshore and embarkation becomes possible the pilot will board the ship. Ingoing ships under SBP from the Steenbank will get their pilot near Westkapelle; ingoing ships under SBP from the Wandelaar will get their pilot at Flushing Roads.

Over the past few years, a lot of time has been put into the optimization of the pilot service. Together with motivated employees, registered pilots have turned the Scheldemonden region into an efficient organisation. An organisation which continuously works on flexible services ensuring the safe and smooth handling of shipping traffic.


Loodswezen River Scheldt uses Aquila-class tenders, Discovery-class tenders, Pilot station vessels P-class, L-class tenders and SWATH's to carry registered pilots to and from inbound and outbound sea-going vessels 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.