Following the completion of extensive studies Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) received the necessary approval to go ahead with their Channel Deepening project. A contract was let to international dredging contractor Van Oord UK Ltd., to carry out essential works to the approach channels to the harbour and port.
This work was needed to ensure that the port continues to be able to offer an efficient service to the ferry and shipping industries. Depth was increased from 6m to 7.5m to accommodate modern ferries at all states of the tide. In addition, the narrow Middle Ship Channel was widened to improve safety and accessibility by these vessels. At the same time improvements were made to the marking of the small boat channel to make passage by recreational craft more straightforward.
The letting of the contract marked the conclusion of almost two years preparation work and consultation with harbour users and many other groups. In accordance with the Harbour Works Regulations 1999, a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out by Posford Haskoning on behalf of PHC and the local authorities. The EIA study and other extensive assessments of the likely effects of the channel deepening on, for instance, habitats, archaeology and water quality, represents one of the most significant investigations ever undertaken into the morphology of Poole Harbour.
As a result of information gathered during the assessment, future maintenance dredging practices in the harbour will be modified to help conserve the inter tidal mudflats which are internationally important for bird life.
In addition, the Commissioners will be working with English Heritage to ensure the conservation of the Swash Channel designated wreck which was discovered as a result of the research work into the project. This wreck, thought to date from the 16th century, will be protected while the work is carried out and further research is scheduled by English Heritage next year.
Almost 2,000,000 m³ of sand and silt were dredged from the channels both inside the harbour and in the approaches. Of this, over 1,100,000 m³ was made available to the local Coast Protection Authorities (Poole, Bournemouth and Purbeck District Councils) for beach replenishment to enhance the protection of the coast of Poole Bay. Combining these projects where possible provided a significant cost saving and reduced the overall environmental effect by minimising both dredging and sea disposal. Material unsuitable for beach nourishment was disposed of at sea under controlled conditions.
Jim Stewart, Chief Executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners, welcomed the project saying “This work is essential to the commercial future of the Port of Poole. This project will also enable the Commissioners to continue to manage the harbour proactively to the benefit of all interests”.
Notices to Mariners were published giving details of the work as it progressed, advising of buoy movements, etc.