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Port of Seville: the origin and evolution of navigation buoys

The first navigation buoy registered worldwide was a wooden floating barrel moored with a weight, marking the sand banks of the Guadalquivir river to the Port of Seville, the only inland maritime port in Spain. It was published in 13th century, in the oldest navigation manual named Lo Compasso da Navigare. Thirty years later, aware of the importance of the mark for safe navigation, several buoys began to be anchored in Northern European waters, and spread progressively all over Europe.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Port of Seville was the “Gateway to the Indies” (The Indies route was the Spanish trading monopoly with Latin America), the ships from America were moored in front of Chipiona, waiting for the tide, just like merchant vessels today, with the Port of Seville as their destination.

At the end of 19th century, night marks were installed in the Guadalquivir river. The first project of this type was approved in September of 1899 and it included the installation of 14 lit buoys in the mouth of the river, called Broa de Sanlúcar, and 21 units more along the course of the river, called Ría del Guadalquivir. All of them were Julius Pintsch steel buoys.

At the first third of 20th century the first AGA-Dalen system was installed along the Broa the Sanlúcar and Ría del Guadalquivir buoys. At the last third of 20th century, Port Authority of Seville installed solar energy in all the buoys of the Ría del Guadalquivir, even though Broa the Sanlúcar buoys adopted solar energy until the year 1995, both cases with double filament lamps and electronic flasher.

The process to replace them began in 2015, by elastomer buoys, following IALA recommendations (Guideline 1047). The benefits are easier maintenance, better daytime visibility, and adaptability to current and waves. Almarin, an AtoN specialised company and member of IALA, contributed to the modernization of the marks by supplying of more than 30 buoys in recent years.

For seven centuries, 95% of the materials used for navigation buoys was wood and metal, so materials such as plastic and fibreglass only represented 5%. Therefore, we are still testing and discovering the potential of these ‘new’ technologies in AtoN applications. Nowadays, these materials are being used more frequently by most manufacturers: a major proportion of navigation buoys are made entirely of plastic or a combination of steel and plastics.

At the end of 2020, for the most recent update of navigation marks in Seville, Almarin and the Port Authority of Seville opted for a hybrid buoy, which joins the best of both worlds: a closed cell elastomer hull, unsinkable, with high resistance to collision, together with steel (stainless in this case), which has a greater strength than plastic, required since these buoys are subject to constant currents and heavy loads. To this day, there are no conclusive studies on the resistance of colour in plastic; however, the paint scheme and its quality applied to steel maintains its colour better, as well as being easily repainted, ensuring better visibility over time. Therefore, this hybrid buoy is impact resistant, lighter, long-lasting, and easier to maintain. Besides the eternal discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of plastic, there is also the ecological question to be considered.

​The pros and cons and best solutions are not obvious. Meanwhile the Guadalquivir river is witness to the evolution of AtoN materials over time, and will continue to flow, welcoming future AtoN solutions.

Nowadays, the mouth of the Guadalquivir river has the most developed technology not only by elastomer buoy technology, but also due to every couple of buoys have Led synchronised lights and one of them has an AIS-AtoN. Besides, Racon in safe water buoy and leading marks along the channel shows Port Authority of Seville commitment with IALA Resolutions, maritime security and environmental protection.

The sea in the heart of Andalusia

The Port of Seville is the only inland maritime port in Spain. It is located in one of the country’s most important cities, with more than one and a half million inhabitants living nearby, and in the main cargo hub in the south of the peninsula. It is a completely multi-modal port with sea and land connections and there is plenty of space in its 850 hectares to develop logistics and

The Port of Seville is situated in the estuary of the Guadalquivir river. From the Atlantic ocean, at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, after a journey of 90 kilometres, you arrive at the port facilities of the city of Seville, entering through a lock which is the only one of its kind in Spain. The route along the Guadalquivir river takes you along a navigation channel called the Guadalquivir Euroway E.60.02, which forms part of the Atlantic corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network.


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