Ports have long played a vital role in theinternational transport system, but have become increasingly important since the second half of the twentieth century with the rapid globalization of the world economy and expansion of world trade. Nowadays ports are not just a transferring point between different modes of transport, but also logistics hubs and centers in global passenger or freight transport chains. High port and other transport costs can act as barriers to trade. If transport can be organized efficiently, that is all the better.


The Port of Leixões near Porto is Portugal`s second most important container port

The terminal of the Port of Leixões, Portugal, inaugurated on July 23, 2015, is located in the Matosinhos municipality close to the city of Porto in the northern region of Portugal. This terminal was built specifically for cruise ships. Conceived with the purpose of re-launching and boosting local tourism and developing the urban character of the location, the new terminal building sits upon a 340 m long quay and includes a pedestrian access path for the general public and passengers. Leixões is the second most important national port in terms of container traffic and is going to play an important role under Europe’s new commercial strategy as well. Three important connections depart from the main building, which has a floor area of around 1,500 m2: the new pier for cruise ships, the new nautical recreational port for vessels, and the new road system to access the city.


The new port includes laboratories of the Porto University of Science and Technology

The main building hosts the passenger station building, a plaza, a gallery museum with laboratories to promote the University of Porto’s Science and Technology Park of the Sea, an aquarium, an underground garage, meeting rooms, a restaurant and a large covered amphitheater with a captivating view of the ocean.


Winding shapes of new port attract visitors

The urban plan extends over a public space of around 5 hectares with approximately 19,000 m2 of construction area, including the port and the pier extension, with the building located at the end of the pier. The building was designed in the shape of a helical spiral moving from sea level in a continuous alternation of glazed and opaque surfaces to create a structure with 4 levels. The winding shapes of the new building attract visitors through a kind of centripetal force that drives them towards the great central hall, which is imbued with filtered light, on what feels like a voyage to the open sea.


The port is to boost local economy

The total cost of the project (studies began in 2003) was around 26 million euros, with an initial budget of 28.3 million euros. The project was funded by the EU with the aim of boosting the local economy, which is based on maritime traffic and tourism.


4000 t of steel, 20,000 m3 of concrete and 6,700 m2 of glass were used

More than 4,000 t of steel were used to build the terminal, as well as 20,000 m3 of concrete, 6,700 m2 of glass and 900,000 tiles in six different shapes. This project won the 2016 AZ Award (international architecture and design category) in Toronto. The book Terminal de Cruzeiros de Leixões, edited
by the project architect Luis Pedro Silva, was published worldwide in March


900,000 tiles needed to be fixed without sealant with a gap of 2-3 mm

The project manager for the main building of the New
Cruise Terminal Port of Leixões wanted to install ceramic tiles of a different
thickness and shape on the interior and exterior concrete walls, and flat tiles
for the ceiling. The tiles needed to be fixed without sealant with a gap of 2-3
mm. Locational factors such as exposure to chloride attack from seawater,
temperature variations and thermal expansion had to be incorporated into the


Installers could cover only 5 m2 of tiles per day per person

A solution permitting the installation of 900,000 ceramic tiles in six different shapes needed to be identified. Fixing posed considerable difficulties given the type of substrate and the uneasy access on vertical surfaces. This meant that installers could cover only 5 m2 per day per person. The combination of challenges led to a series of cost management issues with keeping to the construction and maintenance budget.


Analysis of the substrate conditions

Following an analysis of the substrate conditions concrete curing,
pull-off tests, compressive strength), a method statement was defined. Primarily, it included water or sand blasting of the substrate to eliminate all dust and any traces of form release agents, as well as the mechanical removal of all
protuberances and imperfections due to formwork in order to have a flawlessly smooth surface suitable for promoting complete adhesion of the tiles to the substrate, which was supposed to be perfectly dry.


Tiles were laid with no grout, minimizing the use of adhesive

Mainly hexagonal tiles of 15 cm diameter and of varying thickness and shape were used for the exterior and interior wall tiling. They were laid with no grout, minimizing the use of adhesive (which was employed as a leveling agent) and also maximizing the three-dimensional and light-dark effects. Adhesion of the Technokolla adhesive ALL-9000 to the cast-in-place concrete and tiles was excellent, due also to the fact that the glue has no vertical slippage.


Applying the tiles

As far as the adhesion of the tiles to the wall was concerned, the procedure was as follows:

́́ Very slight leveling with Technokolla ALL-9000 by applying it with a minimal thickness in order to prevent blistering or imperfections on the surface of the adhesive;

́́ Installation of the tiles (after waiting at least 24 h) by spreading the adhesive first with a notched trowel (4–5mm), then with a smooth trowel to ensure a continuous, even layer of adhesive (around 2 mm thickness) on the surface;

́́ Application of the adhesive also on the edges of the back of the tiles by using a small spatula.

́́ Then installation (with due pressure) of the tiles on the substrate previously leveled;

́́ The tiles were not fixed close to each other; a minimum gap between them (2/3 approx.) was ensured through the use of spacers;

́́ Any excess adhesive on the sides or surface of the tiles was removed with a cloth soaked in ethyl alcohol when the adhesive was still fresh.


Bonding the ceiling

As regards the procedure for bonding the ceiling, Sika recommended the same installation procedure described previously (without following point 3). In this case, the still fresh adhesive was able to bear the weight of the tiles since they were installed on a flat surface, unlike those installed on the walls. Rasolastik, a two-component cement-based waterproofing product, was used in the pedestrian access ramps leading from the building to the sea – the
areas with the greatest exposure to chlorides.


New positioning of the Porto region

The Port of Leixões, part of the Trans-European Core Transport Network, serves as the main sea gateway to Porto – a popular tourist destination – and to the country’s northern region. However, the port’s cruise facilities for both ships and passengers were too small to accommodate the average size of ships that are currently used in the cruise market. The “New Cruise Terminal for the Port
of Leixões” project is positioning the region as a port of call for international cruise ships and luxury ocean liners, thus bolstering the local tourism industry. By investing in a completely new cruise terminal and all its facilities, the Port of Leixões now serves as a hub for Porto’s diverse marine-based economy.


For more information about the project, please visit:



Literature: José Manuel das Neves : Terminal de Cruzeiros de Leixões Porto
Cruise Terminal Leixões, Matosinhos Luís Pedro Silva, Uzina Books, 2016.

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