This paper presents the mud dynamics in the harbor basin of Zeebrugge in the Southern North Sea based on an analysis of field data. Mud is typically transported into and within the harbor basin through advection of suspended particulate matter (SPM).
Three important timescales have been identified. On the intratidal timescale, sediment import occurs from 2 h before high water to high water. Flood currents in the North Sea (directed northeastward along the Belgian coast) drive the primary gyre in the harbor mouth which is advected into the basin during rising tide. This results in water inflow near the eastern breakwater and outflow near the western breakwater. Because of sediment settling in the harbor, this results in a net import of SPM. During spring tide, the SPM flux into the harbor basin is two to four times higher than during neap tide. However, the volume of sediment removed from the port by maintenance dredging is kept constant over the spring-neap cycle, causing the amount of mud in the harbor basin to grow around spring tide conditions. On the seasonal timescale, mud volume within the harbor basin is larger in winter and reaches a minimum at the beginning of autumn. Moreover, the measured densities within the deposited mud layers are lower in winter than in summer. The most shallow point of the 210-kHz reflector is also more shallow in winter. Finally, the profile of the interface of the mud layer in the sheltered Albert II dock is more horizontal in winter than in summer, suggesting seasonal variations in the strength of the mud layer. The question to what degree the seasonal variation of thickness and density of the fluid mud layer is related to differences in the suspended sediment input, to differences in the settling rates of suspended flocs, or to the mud consolidation rate remains open however. The data do not show a strong influence of meteorological conditions (waves, freshwater inflow) on siltation rates in the harbor basin.