The Ems Full Hybrid


Over the last thirty years the Ems estuary has changed from an open and natural estuary into a highly controlled and disrupted system. Due to adaptations for the benefit of shipping transport and industry, the system has become a sludge importing system, resulting in a brown and turbid estuary with zero oxygen production and an ever-decreasing biodiversity [2].

This disruption is the consequence of an unbalance between the estuary gully-width and estuary tidal-basin. The basin has been decreased due to reclamations, diking and damming and the gully has been widened and deepened for navigation. To revitalize the estuary, this balance has to be restored while at the same time maintaining the agricultural and industrial viability of this dwindling region [1].

Two new elements are introduced to estuary to restore the balance: tidal polders [3-6] to increase the tidal basin and break waters made from old oilrigs [7-10] to decrease the gully width and tidal inflow. The new elements are designed in such a way that they solve the turbidity problem, form new industries, create new habitats, raise water safety and produce food. Turning the Ems into a hybrid-system with a restored ecosystem, new economic possibilities and remaining accessibility for birds, seals and large ocean cruisers.

Problem analysis: An imbalanced system causes the sludge problem in the Ems estuary:


Figure 1: The problem of the Ems-estuary in summary: A small tidal basin (P) and an unnatural gully profile [A], to ensure enough draft for large ships, results in a system out of balance.


Figure 2: The system compensates by importing an overload of sediment, resulting in a dead ecosystem

Tidal polders, powered by cruise ships, to enlarge the tidal basin:

sluis+tidal polder

Figure 3:

kaarten_tidalpolderFigure 4:

Brakish nature_DEF_plat

Figure 5: Dammed water in the tidal river, to ensure enough depth for cruise ships, is used to flood the tidal polders to create new space for sediment to settle.

Breakwaters made out of oilrigs to narrow the gully profile:

Oilrig industry-01

Figure 6: Currently  more than 500 oil rigs in the North Sea are waiting for dismantling; a potential €40 billion industry, which could boost the economy of the troubled Ems region.



Figure 7 -8: While the top side of the platform is dismantled by metal-processing industries, the jackets are used as breakwater to narrow the gully profile.


Figure 9: The breakwaters are fascinating objects engaging men, and also attracting high amount of birds and aquatic animals (hard substrate habits 25 procent of all sea life).

Did we draw your attention?: Read the whole thesis online

The Ems Full Hybrid by Jonas Papenborg & Remco van der Togt (2012)

For more info please contact the authors:

Jonas Papenborg [; LinkedIn]
Remco van der Togt [; LinkedIn]

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