Spectacular progress at London Gateway - by Jack Gaston

The construction of the new Quay is progressing at a rapid pace. The construction of the new Quay is progressing at a rapid pace.

Early in October the UK Government’s Business Secretary, Dr Vince Cable, visited the site of the London Gateway deepsea port and logistics park, in the Thames estuary, to meet construction workers and the press.

Since dredging, land reclamation and construction began in earnest in March of this year (MJ – April 2010), progress has been spectacular.

London Gateway is a £1.5bn project with over 300 people currently working on site, predominately in the construction industry, a figure that may rise to 700 by the end of the year. With thousands of jobs expected in the coming years in the ports and logistics sector, it is the largest ongoing employment creation project in the UK.

Dr Cable arrived at the 600 hectare Essex site, 25 miles east of central London, accompanied by Simon Moore, chief executive of DP World - London Gateway, and Sir Andrew Cahn the chief executive of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). He made clear his backing for the new port, which is the largest investment project of its kind in the UK.

During the visit, he was given a new report, published on 5 October, that sets out how 36,000 new jobs will be created when the project is completed, providing some £3.2bn to the UK economy every year (figures from Oxford Economics).

London Gateway will deliver a world class transport infrastructure asset for the country, providing deepsea port capacity for the next generation of the world’s largest cargo ships, which are up to 400m long.

Dr Cable said, ‘The project will drive forward the international competitiveness of the UK. If Britain is to continue its drive to improve productivity and competitiveness, this is exactly the kind of infrastructure development we need to foster. London Gateway demonstrates the continued confidence the international business community has in the UK. The sheer size and scale of this project is staggering. London Gateway will make the UK more attractive to international businesses looking to establish themselves in Europe’.

The new port site will also be home to one of the largest logistics parks in Europe, providing UK and international companies with more than nine million square feet of logistics space. By locating logistics centres adjacent to the port, and closer to the biggest UK consumer markets, millions of road miles will be saved each year by reducing the need to transport freight on Britain’s major roads. When complete it will link road, rail and shipping, transforming freight transportation in Britain.

Simon Moore, chief executive of London Gateway said, ‘The closer ports are situated to the markets, the less we need to transport our goods on our busy road network. It’s that simple. London Gateway will take cost out of the supply chain and improve the efficiency and competitiveness of UK PLC. We are creating world class infrastructure for the UK, which will take London back to its roots as a global trading hub.’ Replying to questions; Mr Moore said that the project was funded without Government money and that if it was commercially viable, the logistics park could be opened ahead of the port complex.

Laing O’Rourke Infrastructure Limited and Belgian specialist Dredging International NV (DEME Group) are responsible for dredging and construction at the Essex site, under a joint venture contract valued at £400m. When completed, the new deep water port will be capable of handling the world’s largest container ships and receiving 3.5 million containers a year. The site will be raised by three metres and the wharf, extending up to 600 metres into the estuary, is being built on reclaimed land. A separate logistics park, originally planned to be 9.5 million sq ft in size, is set to be built under a separate construction contract.

A massive amount of work has been carried out since Maritime Journal first visited the site in March of this year. Over 25% of the dredging and reclamation work for the new port has been completed. The amount of dredged material delivered to the site now totals over 6 million cubic/metres. An eventual requirement of 29 million cubic/metres is predicted and work continues around the clock. Provision has been made to discharge up to three dredgers at any one time, with the material being pumped to different locations on the site. The larger dredgers take approximately 2 ½ hours to pump their cargoes ashore.

A significant number of dredgers and other plant from the Dredging International - DEME are involved in the project. At the time of the visit, the trailing suction dredgers HAM 310, Marieke and Uilenspiegel were in operation, dredging in the approach channels of the Thames estuary, improving access for shipping and delivering the spoil to the site. The area being dredged is a 300m wide channel from the port area near Stanford-le-Hope, heading eastwards past Canvey towards Southend-on-Sea and out into the estuary. This operation will allow the main shipping channel to be deepened by approximately three metres.

Part of the dredged material (largely sand and ballast) is being pumped ashore to large stockpiles for distribution around the site. Dredged material needed for reclamation is pumped direct to the infill areas and discharged underwater, using diffusers and spreader pontoons to minimise loss. Land reclamation for the new 1,300m long quay is being carried out in two phases starting from the eastern (downstream) end. The first phase is well advanced and work on the second has been started.

The new quay, built entirely on reclaimed land, is rapidly taking shape with several hundred metres of bund, infill and rock armouring already in place at the downstream end of the site. Construction of the bunds is an important part of the Dredging International workload and includes slope protection works and the installation of FOSA mattresses (Fibrous Open Stone Asphalt) for erosion protection. Work will continue, upstream until the full length of the projected quay is completed.

Rock to armour the bunds and similar structures is imported from Norway in 2,000 ton loads by ship and transferred to the pontoon barge Charlie Rock (a vessel well known to many MJ readers) anchored in the river. The barge acts as a stockpile and rock is delivered to the site when and where required.

The dredging and other on site services are supported by the tugs Afon Goch and North Stack from Holyhead Towing and the powerful multi-purpose work vessels Odin and Morag. The work vessels attend the dredgers, assisting with the connection of floating pipelines and supplying fuel, water and other essential supplies.

Work will start on the permanent quay wall structure early in 2011. Excavation, and the construction of a ‘diaphragm wall’, using a Bentonite slurry process, will take place inside the outer bund and rock armour. Once sections of the quay wall are completed, the rock armour will be removed and retained for use elsewhere on site. Other extraneous materials will be dredged away to leave a water depth of 17m.

One of the subsidiary projects undertaken prior to the start of the main reclamation work was the construction by Laing O’Rourke, with Bachy-Solétanche as subcontractor, of a new 300m long oil jetty at the eastern end of the site. This jetty, built to serve Shell’s remaining activities in the area, is now virtually complete and will eventually allow an existing facility at

the western end of the site to be cleared.

Just a few days before the Ministerial visit, DP World’s London Gateway was awarded the prestigious Environmental Protection prize in the Lloyd’s List Global Awards ceremony in London. The award was received by CEO Simon Moore, who said that the award was recognition of the outstanding hard work that has been put into the environmental management programme at London Gateway.

The London Gateway development is in an area designated as being of international environmental importance. As a result, DP World’s work is underpinned by its Site Environmental Policy, that focuses on preserving the marine environment and protection against impacts from construction of the new port, in addition to managing and protecting all terrestrial wildlife on the massive site.

A highly precautionary approach to the dredging process has been adopted, using what is believed to be the most sophisticated environmental programme of its type in the world to constantly manage and mitigate the potential impacts of dredging 29 million cubic/m of material from the Thames Estuary and North Sea. A network of real-time monitoring buoys along the course of the dredged channel supplies real-time information to marine experts who have direct links to the dredgers. Should there be an issue, work can be immediately halted or precautionary steps taken to ensure stringent water quality thresholds are not exceeded.

Other work carried out to protect the environment at London Gateway include the creation of the new Stanford Wharf Nature Reserve. The reserve provides feeding areas for thousands of birds flying south for the winter. New habitats have also been created for snakes, newts, lizards and water voles, with over 200,000 animals having been relocated to enable the construction of London Gateway, the largest trans-location of animals ever in the UK.

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