A CONTRACTOR has been appointed in a project worth £120 million which will deepen Harwich Harbour to make room for mega ships.

Harwich Haven Authority has announced it has awarded the multi-million pound contract to a joint venture of Dutch dredging contractors.

Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord will take on the challenge of deepening the Harwich approach channel and the harbour.

The nationally significant improvement project, costing an estimated £120 million, will be privately financed by the Harwich Haven Authority.

The approach channel and inner Harbour will be deepened to a depth of 16 metres from its current depth of 14.5 metres.

The project will ensure the port will continue to cope with the increasing numbers of supersized container ships in operation and under construction in the future.

Mega ships are about 400 metres in length and 58 metres wide. By comparison, the Shard, in London, is 310 metres high.

The additional depth in the harbour and seaward approaches will provide deep-water access, unrivalled in the UK for the growing numbers of super-sized vessels engaged on the essential trades between China and the UK , which visit the Haven ports each year.

The initiative will future proof the capabilities of Haven Port operators, particularly the UK’s largest container port of Felixstowe to ensure it can keep trade flowing in and out of the country.

The dredging project will commence in the autumn and will last about 18 months.

Neil Glendinning, chief executive officer of Harwich Haven Authority, said: “It’s a hugely significant project, not just for Haven port operators but for the wider UK economy.

“More than 40 per cent of the UK’s containerised goods arrive in the Haven each year.

“It’s a vital trade gateway and our investment will ensure it continues to compete with other European ports.”

Paul M de Jong, on behalf of the Boskalis Westminster/Van Oord Joint Venture, added: “We are proud to execute this important dredging project to deepen the approach channel to Harwich Haven and allow unimpeded access of the latest generation container vessels.”