Tuesday, November 26, 2019

THE ‘do nothing’ option when it comes to future marine access of the Waterford Estuary is unviable, according to the Port of Waterford.

In its recently published Masterplan which runs to 2044, Port Management states that if marine access is not improved, “the port will be constrained by the ongoing annual costs of the maintenance dredging and the numbers of transits and sizes of vessels it can accommodate in the future. Maintaining the status quo would result in losing market share and the port would not be in a position to deliver the facilities and services required by stakeholders in the South East Irish economy. For these reasons, the ‘Do nothing’ scenario is not considered viable.”

With that in mind, the Port is to consider four options, the first of these being the installation of sheet piled training walls at the confluence of the Rivers Barrow and Suir at the Cheekpoint Lower Bar.

This would involve constructing two lengths of wall, one being vee-shaped and approximately 495 metres long, the other a straight wall measuring 130m. Such a development would reduce sedimentation in the port’s existing operational areas. A double wall of sheet piles “most likely closed” would be required “to resist the loads imposed due to waves, currents, silt build-up and accidental impact”. The estimated cost of this project comes to €6 million.

Option two entails the widening of Carters Patch Channel, which runs from Passage East to Sheagh Light from 100m to 150m. “The curve of the (existing) navigational channel requires vessels to ‘crab’ when manoeuvring in the channel. This results in a limiting length of vessel able to pass through the area… The planned 150m width will significantly improve the manoeuvring in this area, without fully meeting the dimensions outlined by PIANC (World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure) guidelines.”

The Masterplan estimates for the dredging of Carter’s Patch range from €4.4m to €9.7m.

The third option would involve channel widening and deepening to accommodate “larger, tidally restricted vessels”. The Masterplan notes: “In order for the port to remain competitive and meet the needs of stakeholders in the future it is vital that additional capital dredging is carried out… The cost of this dredging increases with increasing depths, and such dredging has to be carried out within the available financial resources of the port. However, such work can be carried out incrementally over a number of years before achieving a final depth which will serve the needs of future vessels.”

Potential vessels envisaged at Belview include bulk carriers ranging between 200m and 210m in length and container vessels of up to 160m.

The final option – turning basin development – notes the two turning circles: up estuary between Belview Quay (between Flour Mill and Snowhill at Cheekpoint Upper Bar) and O’Brien’s Quay and down estuary beyond the downstream end of Belview Quay.

“The proposed diameter of the upper turning circle needs to be reduced significantly and the turning circle at Cheekpoint Upper Bar will be limited to 310m with 1 in 5 side slopes,” according to the Port. “These changes are made to avoid any potential rock that may be within the design area.”

Dredging the Estuary’s navigation channel currently costs around €1.3m annually.

Improving channel access along the Waterford Estuary’s navigational channel is essential from the Port of Waterford’s perspective.

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