Work In Progress: Construction of Thames Gateway starts in earnest -

Heavy lift ship ‘Kang Sheng Kou’ prepares to download a large ‘package’ of dredging equipment.
Heavy lift ship ‘Kang Sheng Kou’ prepares to download a large ‘package’ of dredging equipment.
DP World CEO Mr Simon Moore attends the arrival of the dredger ‘Rubens’.
DP World CEO Mr Simon Moore attends the arrival of the dredger ‘Rubens’.
Shahid Malik MP is given a tour of the Gateway site aboard a Port of London Authority launch.
Shahid Malik MP is given a tour of the Gateway site aboard a Port of London Authority launch.
The cutter suction dredger ‘Rubens’ is anchored in readiness to pump spoil for the construction of bunds and reclamation.
The cutter suction dredger ‘Rubens’ is anchored in readiness to pump spoil for the construction of bunds and reclamation.
Spreader pontoon ‘DE Otter’ is connected up to the pipelines and ready to go.
Spreader pontoon ‘DE Otter’ is connected up to the pipelines and ready to go.
Tugs ‘SMS Shoalbuster ‘and ‘Afon Goch’ use their cranes to put the final touched to the pipeline connections.
Tugs ‘SMS Shoalbuster ‘and ‘Afon Goch’ use their cranes to put the final touched to the pipeline connections.
A large container ship passes construction plant working on the new oil jetty site.
A large container ship passes construction plant working on the new oil jetty site.

Major work started in earnest on 16 March at the site of DP World - London Gateway, the UK’s new £1.5bn deep sea port and logistics park, located in the Thames estuary 25 miles east of Central London.

The event was marked by a Ministerial visit and the highly visible array of dredging and reclamation plant being assembled on the shoreline.

The works will include dredging and reclaiming land from the Thames Estuary to allow the world’s largest container ships to bring consumer goods closer to the point of consumption than existing major national deep water ports. By reducing the transportation required to move goods across the UK, transport planners predict some 65 million road miles will be saved in the UK every year, equivalent to some 2,000 trucks per day off the national road network. This equates to some 148,000 tons of CO2 that can be saved every year.

To mark the occasion, Shahid Malik MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government, visited the 1,500 acre site. Shahid Malik said, ‘Not only will London Gateway help keep traffic off the roads and reduce vehicle emissions, it will provide thousands of jobs for people living across the region. In the coming years more than 35,000 people will be employed in and around the port, an investment by DP World which represents the single largest jobs creation project in the UK today and its continued confidence in the opportunities the Thames Gateway offers.’

Simon Moore, CEO of London Gateway, told the media, ‘We are creating a world class shipping lane, which will allow the world’s largest container ships to dock alongside one of Europe’s largest logistics parks. Our aim is to ensure the distribution of goods becomes more efficient and environmentally friendly. We are now in discussions with potential occupiers for the London Gateway Logistics Park as well as shipping lines for the port and look forward to working with them to improve the way we move products for both importers and exporters.’

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, the largest to be built in the UK for more than 20 years, will be capable of handling the world’s largest container ships and be capable of receiving 3.5 million containers a year. The site will be raised by three metres and the wharf, extending up to 600m into the estuary, will be built on reclaimed land. A separate logistics park, originally planned to be 9.5m sq ft in size, is set to be built under a separate construction contract.

Laing O’Rourke, with Bachy-Solétanche as subcontractor, is also building a new 300m long oil jetty at the eastern end of the site to serve Shell’s remaining activities in the area. Work on the jetty is already well advanced and is a hive of activity with jack-up platforms, tugs and barges operating on site.

Considerable preliminary work has already been carried out including clearance operations and environmental preparations on the former Shell Oil Refinery site at Shellhaven. Millions of pounds have been invested in a world class environmental management programme and, already, over 50,000 animals have been re-housed from the site. A team of 25 ecologists has collected thousands of animals from across the site including water voles, Great Crested Newts, adders, grass snakes and lizards. New nature habitats are being created in which to re-house the reptiles, each of a different character, which will accommodate a variety of wildlife that had moved into the derelict land of the former oil refinery.

In another environmental initiative, construction company Carillion started work under a £3m contract in 2008 to reconstruct 26 hectares of coastal mudflats that are being lost through construction of the port. It was necessary to provide a number of new mudflats for the thousands of birds that visit this area of south Essex. Mudflats are created when sediment is deposited by the tides and are important for wildlife, particularly migratory birds.

The main dredging and construction works are to be completed over a period of 54 months from the start of dredging, setting a deadline of the end 2014. A significant number of dredgers and other plant from the Dredging International - DEME fleet will be involved in the project. A major element will be the construction of the 1,300m quay wall accommodating six large container berths and a two berth Ro-Ro facility. Some 29m cu/m of capital dredging and reclamation work are included, with trailing suction dredgers operating in the Thames over a distance of approximately 100km.

Preparatory works, including soil investigations and the set up of an impressive river monitoring system were carried out in 2008 and 2009. Actual dredging operations were due to start in March of this year shortly after the arrival of a sizeable package of floating plant.

The arrival of this consignment of plant was a landmark event in its own right and was attended by Mr Simon Moore and several of his senior staff. On 12 March the semi-submersible heavy lift ship Kang Sheng Kou arrived at anchor in the Medway estuary to discharge the cutter suction dredger Rubens and a large array of floating pipeline components, complete with pontoons. With the ship ballasted down, Rubens and its equipment, which had been brought in from a previous task in North Africa, was quickly and efficiently towed off by tugs from the local Svitzer fleet and the SMS Shoalbuster. On the same day the ‘spreader’ pontoon DE Otter arrived in tow from Belgium.

Within four days the entire plant package was towed to the Thames Gateway site and assembled with the assistance of the tug SMS Shoalbuster, operated by GSS Plant Ltd (on bare boat charter from Sinbad Marine) and Afon Goch and North Stack from the Holyhead Towing Company.

On 16 March, the day of the Ministerial visit, the media including Maritime Journal were invited to see the tangible results of this rapid deployment of plant. The dredger Rubens was anchored a considerable distance from the existing site, in a position approximately where the new quay frontage will be built, providing a graphic illustration of the sheer scope of the reclamation task. The tugs were busily putting the final touches to the considerable length of floating pipeline, connecting Rubens to the DE Otter.

An important part of the Dredging International workload will the construction of bunds, slope protection works and the installation of Fibrous Open Stone Asphalt (FOSA) mattresses for erosion protection. Spoil from Rubens and the trailing suction dredgers will be used for the bunds and later, land reclamation. Dredging in the shipping channels will provide unprecedented access for deep draft container ships.

Dredging International is one of the operating companies of the Belgium based DEME Group, a world leader in dredging, hydraulic engineering and environmental projects. The Group employs a total of 3,700 staff and crew, working on the five continents, and a fleet of 80 dredgers and some 200 auxiliary vessels, including some of the most advanced in the world.

In recent years the organization has been involved in a number of significant container terminal developments in Europe, including the construction of the Le Havre Port 2000, the construction of the Deurganck Dock in Antwerp, a new container terminal in Fos-sur-Mer (France), and the new Vuosaari port in Helsinki. The Thames Gateway project represents a major breakthrough for DEME in the UK and offers valuable partnering opportunities with, amongst others DP World, for the future.

DP World is one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world, with 49 terminals and 12 new developments across 31 countries. It employs a team of nearly 30,000 people and serves customers in some of the most dynamic economies in the world. In 2009, DP World handled more than 43.4m TEU of containers across its portfolio from the Americas to Asia. With a pipeline of expansion and development projects in key growth markets, including India, China and the Middle East, capacity is expected to rise to around 95m TEU over the next ten years.

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