Since its creation in 1898, the department COAST has undergone several name changes and, of course, many structural changes as well. Ever since it was set up, the department COAST, in both its policy and the performance of its duties, has strived for an optimal form of coexistence with the sea.
1898 - 1944
On 31 March 1898, King Leopold II in Ostend created the Special Agency for the Coast under the name ‘Ministère de l’Agriculture et des Travaux Publics – Ponts et Chaussées – Service Spécial de la Côte’ (Ministry of Agriculture and Civil Engineering – Bridges and Roads – Special Coastal Department).
Previously there had already been a unit set up in Ostend which was responsible for the public works on the coast. Ir. Pierre Demey, Chief Engineer-Director of Bridges and Roads, had been the head of this agency since 1886. In his position, ir. Demey gradually became the confidential advisor of King Leopold II for coastal and port works. Shortly after his death in February 1898, the king officially set up the Special Agency for the Coast. Under the successor, engineer Van Gansberghe, the agency carried out the plans for the new ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge.
1945 - 1976
During World War I, the locks and the water control of the Yser, which at the time fell within the competence of the Agency for the Coast, played a major role.
From 1945, the Special Agency for the Coast, under the direction of ir. Jozef Lagrou, focused mainly on repairing the damage caused by the war and clearing the shipwrecks. In 1952, ir. Jozef Verschave launched a programme for substantial sea defence works which, after the storm-surge disaster of 1953, gained momentum. With his works as part of the sea defence works and the first step towards the expansion of the port of Zeebrugge, ir. Verschave left an indelible mark on the coast.
In 1967, the reins were handed over to ir. Robert Simoen, who continued the work on the coastal ports of Ostend, Zeebrugge, Blankenberge and Nieuwpoort. Under his direction, the modest Agency for the Coast developed into an important government agency on the coast, the Agency for Coastal Ports.
1977 - 2009
As Inspector-General, ir. Robert Simoen was assisted by Chief Engineer-Director Herman Verslype and Pierre Kerckaert, who succeeded him in 1989, with his directorship being transferred to ir. Erik Blomme.
In 1995, the Agency for Coastal Ports was assigned to the Flemish Waterways and Maritime Affairs Administration – AWZ and its name was changed to Department Waterways Coast – AWK. Director-engineer Bernard De Putter became the Head of Department.
In 2003 and 2004 the administration was restructured. The powers of the departments were functionally redistributed. A great many responsibilities were shifted to the departments Maritime Access and Upper Scheldt.
In early 2004, jurisdiction over the coast canals and the river Yser was transferred and the duties of the department focused, as it did at the beginning, merely on the coast itself. At that point in time, the section Waterways was dropped entirely and the department got its current name the department COAST.
2010 - now
In 2010 the organisation structure of the department COAST was substantially modified. New dynamics and a novel business-like approach became the catchwords to achieve optimal cooperation with customers, partners and stakeholders.
On 8 March 2010, ir. Bernard De Putter retired. He was succeeded as Head of Department by ir. Kathleen Bernaert. Her biggest challenges were the drafting of the Master Plan for Coastal Safety, which was approved by the Flemish authorities on 10 June 2011, the project ‘Nieuwpoort Right Bank’ and the sounding of the Belgian Continental Shelf. She left the department on 29 februari 2016. While looking for a new department Head, Jacques D’Havé, Administrator General, assumed the position while ir. Peter DeWolf, advising engineer, was responsible for the day to day activities of the department.
On 9 november 2016, lic. Caroline Lootens was appointed to Head of the Coastal Division. Prior to this, she was active as legal adviser of the department.