Medway Ports has appointed contractors to carry out a dredging campaign to deepen the approach channel to, and open the way for expansion of, Thamesport, one of the UK’s leading container terminals.
A joint venture operation by Dutch owned Westminster Dredging and HAM Dredging will start immediately and take until the end of February to remove 800,000 cubic metres of clay and silt.
The programme involving three dredgers, will extend the tidal window for larger container ships and expand the Medway’s potential as one of the UK’s strategic sea gateways.
Deepening of the inner reaches and Thamesport berths will be undertaken by a water injection dredger which will push a wave of silt before it until it is clear of the navigation channels.
Conventional trailer suction dredging will be used on 10 kilometres of the approach channel, increasing the depth from a minimum of –11 metres chart datum to –12.5 metres.
The Thamesport berths will be deepened from –14 metres to –15.5 metres and extended by 100 metres in length, enabling the container terminal to accommodate the latest generation, 6,000 TEU vessels.
The dredging programme, costing £3.5 million, followed a joint study commissioned by Medway Ports, the conservancy authority for the river, in collaboration with Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited, owners of Thamesport.
A comprehensive start-to-finish consultation exercise involving environmental as well as commercial interests, meant that an application for the programme was submitted to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions with an Environmental Impact Study which already had the approval of all parties. The DETR gave the go-ahead in September.
Des Crampton, Director of Medway Ports which is part of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, said the dredging programme would particularly increase the potential of Thamesport. “The greater depth of water will give the larger container ships a longer period on each tide to access the Thamesport terminal and will further raise the profile of the Medway as a strategic gateway for world trade,” he said.
David Gledhill, General Manager of Thamesport, added: “Thamesport is firmly established as one of the UK’s leading container hubs and this dredging programme will consolidate our position. Container ships continue to get larger and the industry must respond to this challenge by providing appropriate capacity if we are to retain direct calls at UK ports. The deeper channel will help us to do this and allow even greater service flexibility for ships calling at Thamesport.”