Liverpool2 taking shape to schedule; Port of Liverpool's PS300m river berth project prepares for its end-of-year opening. Neil Hodgson reports.
Just before the festive season, the first berth at the PS300m Liverpool2 site will open for business, with the second set to enter service in the first quarter of 2016.
Liverpool2 will enable the port to handle the biggest container vessels plying the seas when the widened Panama Canal opens next April.
In the meantime, work is stepping up at the Seaforth dock to create the new river berths, involving reclaiming land the size of 14 Wembley pitches, and dredging the river bed alongside the new sea wall to create a deep enough draft for a new generation of huge container ships. The ECHO was given exclusive access to the scheme which involves a workforce of 440 specialists which, says Liverpool2 project director Doug Coleman, is like a mini-United Nations.
There are Dutch, Danish, Norwegians, Russians, Filipinos, and Scousers, all working three shifts around the clock.
Piling to create the new sea wall will be complete next month and the reclaimed area is now being infilled with materials dredged from the Mersey. In total 5.5m tonnes will be pumped ashore to create the berths and holding areas for thousands of containers.
Doug explained there are currently three different types of dredger in use: "We have a big one that sucks up sand from the bottom of the river, the Goliath backhoe dredger which is removing rocks and clay that the sand dredger can't move, and a water injection dredger that blows air and water into the sea as the tide is ebbing which lifts sand and silt and the tide carries that away."
The Goliath is dredging the deep water channel next to the sea wall and works around the clock, aided by a survey vessel which sails over the area to create a picture of the river bed to guide Goliath, using GPS, to the exact spot that needs dredging.
Close to Goliath is a jack-up barge working on piling for the new sea wall manned by a Danish crew which spends a month on and a month off the barge.
The barge is normally used hundreds of miles offshore for wind turbine installation and, said Doug, is completely selfsufficient: "It has its own cinema, sauna, even an operating theatre and dental surgery."
The next big event for Liverpool2 will be connecting its new power system to the national grid after two-and-half years work by more than 200 staff to link 18 new substations to the grid's Aintree site 12km away.
This involved installation of 48km of high voltage cabling and 12km of fibre around the port and will give it an extra 30 megawatts of capacity, which is more than some towns consume.
Mr Coleman said: "Three years ago Ofgem gave us two dates of February 26, and July 29, 2015, to hook up to the national grid, and said if we don't meet those dates it could be another five years before they close the grid to connect us. We will hit those dates.
It has been a fantastic effort by everyone."
And late in September the five dockside ship-to-shore cranes, each bigger than the Royal Liver Building, will arrive by ship from Shanghai. Mr Coleman said: "They're so big you will see them from 100 miles away."
Staff are already being recruited and training is underway for the crane operators on a special simulator which Mr Coleman likened to an X-Box: "The cranes are operated remotely by VDU and the crane operators will be aged between 20 and 35 because, as you get older you lose your hand-to-eye co-ordination, which is vital if you want to be moving between 25 and 30 containers each hour."
He added: "We're still on budget and on programme."
Talks with potential clients are ongoing, he said: "Talks with shipping lines haven't stopped.
"We want to encourage operators to take advantage of our new terminal. No-one has signed up yet, but they wouldn't because that would mean breaking their ties with someone else, so they would not want to do that too soon.
"There has been positive dialogue with the shipping industry in terms of attracting new lines to the Port of Liverpool."
The dredger Goliath excavates a trench alongeside the new Liverpool2 sea wall JASON ROBERTS
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|Publication:||Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Jul 23, 2015|
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