The Western Scheldt (Dutch: Westerschelde) in the province of Zeeland in the southwestern Netherlands, is the estuary of the Scheldt river. This river once had several estuaries, but the others are disconnected from the Scheldt, leaving the Westerschelde as its only direct way to the sea. It is an important shipping route to the Port of Antwerp, Belgium. Therefore, unlike the other sea arms, it is not closed by a dam as part of the Delta Works. Instead, the dykes around it have been heightened and reinforced.
Many ships have sunk in the Western Scheldt. Following an agreement between the Dutch and Flemish governments in 1995, many of these wrecks have been removed to improve shipping access to Antwerp. It was expected that the last 38 wrecks in the shipping channel would be removed during 2003. The largest wreck was the 131-metre (430 ft) long Alan A. Dale which was removed during June 2003.
Western Scheldt Tunnel
In mid-March 2003, a 6.6 km tunnel under the Western Scheldt was opened, the Western Scheldt Tunnel, running from Ellewoutsdijk (mun. Borsele) in Zuid-Beveland to Terneuzen in Zeelandic Flanders. It is the longest road traffic tunnel in the Netherlands. The toll fee (2012) is €5,00 for cars and €2,50 for motorcycles. The charge for motorcyclists was originally the same as for cars but, following protests, the toll was reduced in 2011. There is a single toll station for both directions, located on the north bank. Pedestrians, cyclists, and moped riders are not allowed in the tunnel and must travel by bus.
The double-decker car ferries that serviced the two Western Scheldt crossings until 2003 were sold to Italian companies, where two of them, the Queen Beatrix (renamed Tremestieri) and Prince Johan Friso (renamed Acciarello) were adapted for the crossing between Messina and Villa San Giovanni on the Italian mainland.
With the opening of the road tunnel, the Breskens-Vlissingen ferry was restricted to pedestrians and cyclists only. It is operated by Veolia Fast Ferries Zeeland, part of Connex. Initially former car ferries were used, but as of 2 May 2004 the service has been operated by two "small waterplane area twinhulls" (swaths, similar to catamarans), built at the Royal Schelde Group in Vlissingen (Flushing), and named "Prins Willem Alexander" and "Prinses Máxima".
Upstream, the Kruiningen-Perkpolder ferry was discontinued without direct replacement.