The £350 million-plus Aberdeen harbour expansion project (AHEP) is in the “final sprint” towards a phased opening next year, port bosses said.
Once complete, the upgraded facility will be the largest berthage port in Scotland and will welcome vessels up to 1,000ft in length.
The project is the largest marine infrastructure development currently under way in the UK and 70% of the way through its construction phase, following commencement at the start of 2017.
It was dealt a major blow earlier this year when lead contractor Dragados UK pulled out, leaving Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB) to find firms to complete the final 30%.
AHEP project director Keith Young said: “Since taking over the site in May, we have seen considerable progress and overcome several engineering challenges.
“Much of the 70% of progress involves dredging work below the water line, and construction of the north breakwater and fixed quay areas.
“Approximately 2.4 million cubic meters (nearly 85m cubic feet) of rock has been removed from the seabed using the world’s largest dredgers, and we are pleased this material will be reused elsewhere within the project.
“The second-half of this year has seen the arrival of three caissons for the Castlegate (north) and Dunnottar (east) quays, and revetment work on what will be the open quay sections of the harbour.”
The final eight caissons are expected to arrive from Cromarty Firth in 2021 once winter weather conditions have receded.
This will coincide with the start of construction of the south breakwater and crown wall – a 26t-high structure which will run along the length of the north breakwater to protect the harbour from the biggest waves.
Mr Young added: “The knowledge, skill and innovation that is going into every element of construction is truly humbling, and I am very proud of everyone who is involved in this monumental project.”
AHB chief executive Michelle Handforth said: “Like any project of this scale we have encountered a number of challenges, but we are happy and confident in the position we are in at the end of this year.
“The expansion of Aberdeen harbour has never been more important, both for the north-east and the rest of the country.”
“South harbour will open a world of possibilities and position Aberdeen as a world leader in the changing energy landscape, while radically growing Scotland’s maritime industry and international shipping potential.
“We are working extremely closely with customers, port users and industry organisations around the UK to maximise the potential for the expanded port in Aberdeen as we gear up to our phased opening next year.”
Although AHB’s new facilities will start to be operational next year, 100% completion is not expected before 2022.
The harbour has remained fully operational throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
But construction work on the expansion ground to a halt as Scotland went into lockdown earlier this year.
The ongoing impact of the global pandemic and a sharp slump in oil prices earlier this year have also blown a large hole in the near-900-year-old business’ annual revenue as a result of ferry, cruise and oil and gas operators decreasing activity,