Dutch dredging major Royal Boskalis Westminster has been awarded a contract from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) of the UK Ministry of Defence for capital dredging of the approach channel to the port of Portsmouth.
The contract is worth EUR35 million (USD39 million) and dredging is due to commence in 2H/2015.
A Royal Navy base since 1194, Portsmouth is home to many of its surface ships, including destroyers, frigates, mine countermeasures, and fishery protection squadrons.
Related news: Boskalis wins EUR75 million African dredging contracts
DIO project manager Paul Simmonds said, “Along with the jetty upgrade works we announced earlier this year, provision of high-voltage power for the ships when berthed, and installation of navigational aids within the channel, this contract forms part of a GBP100 million investment to transform Portsmouth Harbour into a state-of-the-art home for the Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
“The QEC carriers are larger than any warship that has previously used Portsmouth Harbour,” he explained, “so the approach channel, inner harbour area, and berth area need to be made deeper and wider to accommodate the ships.”
Speaking to IHS Maritime, a Boskalis spokesperson said, “We will deploy a medium-sized trailing hopper dredger, such as the Crestway, and a jumbo backhoe. The dredging operation will both widen and deepen the 7 km-long approach channel and a total volume of about 3 million cubic metres of hard clay, sand, and gravel will be removed over an eight month period.
“The project has stringent environmental requirements,” she added, “and we will use customised working methods and continuous monitoring in order to meet them.”
This is the second major dredging contract in the south of England that Boskalis has won recently. It completed work on the EUR42 million Southampton Approach Channel Deepening (SACD) in 2014, dredging over 5 million cubic metres of material from a 54 km stretch of the navigational channel to enhance navigational safety and improve the tidal access window for the largest container vessels.
Like Portsmouth, the area peripheral to SACD is a heavily protected part of the United Kingdom, covered by both national and European designations, and as a result, it took more than five years to obtain the necessary license and permits and also saw strict environmental conditions that required the formulation of an adaptive management strategy for water quality along with installation of a comprehensive telemetric water quality monitoring system.