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Southampton completes channel widening programme

A backhoe dredger loading an attendant barge with sediment ready for safe disposal
The Port of Southampton completed its navigation channel widening programme in the Western Docks, allowing the largest container vessels to pass the biggest berthed cruise ships.

The works involved the removal of 900,000m3 of mainly clay based material over a 2 km stretch of the channel, widening it by 30 – 65 mtr.

The container vessels arriving into Southampton are the largest in the world, carrying up to 24,000 containers. 

A ‘complex’ task

Andrew Hallam, ABP Southampton programme lead, described the undertaking as ‘a very complex and challenging project to navigate due to the number of stakeholders and consenting requirements, as well as delivering the project through the winter with several significant weather events.’ 

The timeframe to complete the dredge was restricted to the winter months to ensure the activity did not impact the salmon migration to the River Test.

Scope of work

The project was two years in the making, managed by ABP Southampton’s engineering and marine teams. 

Along with navigation simulation exercises to determine the scope of work, geotechnical surveys were conducted to assess the nature of the material to be removed and the type of dredging equipment to be used during the work. 

Diver operations assessed the seabed for historical unexploded ordnance and safely recovered marine debris such as anchors and tyres from the seabed. 

Archaeological sampling was also completed before the dredging programme commenced. 

It is the first major channel-widening project at Southampton in 10 years.