A £350million project to expand Aberdeen harbour has passed a key milestone with the start of dredging operations in Nigg Bay.
The first vessel on site is Van Oord’s Costa Verde, which will remove about 200,000 cubic metres of material before a backhoe dredger arrives to tackle more dense seabed material later in the construction phase.
Dredging to the south of the existing harbour is designed to increase the water depth in the bay ahead of the construction of quays over the next three years, and the subsequent development of “world class” deepwater berthage.
Costa Verde, built in 1998, is a Spanish-registered dredger nearly 90 metres (300ft) in length and with a volume capacity of around 2,400 cubic metres (85,000cu ft).
Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB) chief executive Colin Parker said: “This is a significant step for our expansion project, Aberdeen South Harbour, which is of local, national and international importance.”
Construction work on the overall harbour expansion began in May. Nigg Bay is being redeveloped in what is widely seen as a step change in marine support capabilities in Scotland.
The project will see additional facilities built which will, by 2020, form Aberdeen South Harbour and transform the port’s ability to accommodate larger vessels, opening up potential new revenue streams for the whole of the north.
AHB recently welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the port, where she announced that Scottish Enterprise was to contribute £11.7million towards an expansion, expected to help create 2,300 jobs by 2026.
Modern facilities due to be completed in 2020 will include nearly 4,600ft of new quayside, with a water depth of up to 35ft. The project will also create an additional 31 acres of lay-down area.
Mr Parker said: “The development, which will make Aberdeen the largest port in Scotland in terms of berthage, will allow our existing customers the opportunity to diversify and expand, while attracting new customers and markets.
“This will promote the introduction of up-scaled decommissioning activity, a more significant share of the available cruise vessel fleet and larger, more cost-effective commercial vessels.
“This first element of the required dredging operations is a vital element in achieving these goals.”
Plans for the harbour’s expansion were officially sanctioned last December.
A series of Aberdeen City Council events earlier this year were hailed a success after 15 local firms secured contracts as part of the harbour expansion.
Three “meet the buyer” sessions were hosted by the council on behalf of Dragados, the Spanish-owned construction group leading the development, to highlight the opportunities for local businesses to join the supply chain.
The council and Dragados have both declined to reveal who won the contracts or how much they are worth due to commercial sensitivity.
Successful companies secured deals for services ranging from traffic management and the supply of quarry materials through to health and safety training.