FOR hundreds of years Harwich Port has been overshadowed by the UK’s biggest and busiest container port, which is a stone’s throw away from the town.
And despite the port attracting trade from across the globe, it is dwarfed in size by it’s Suffolk neighbour the Port of Felixstowe The Port of Felixstowe welcomes thousands of ships each year, including some of the largest container ships afloat to make it the metropolis that it is today.
However, there are now £90 million plans in the pipeline to expand Harwich Harbour’s depth to 16 metres which would allow the Harwich Port to welcome 400-metre long mega-ships in the future.
Harwich Haven Authority announced its plans for the multimillion pound project last month after it applied to the Marine Management Organisation for consent to deepen the harbour.
The deepening of the harbour would ensure that the port will continue to be able to handle the increasing numbers of supersized container ships in operation and under construction in the future.
The port is already one of the largest in the country, with a total of 4,477 vessels arriving into Harwich Haven last year.
These ships carried more than 194 million tonnes of goods- this weight is three times heavier than a space shuttle.
A Harwich Haven Authority spokesman said the harbour would be deepened from 14.5 metres to 16 metres.
She said: “Most material will be disposed of at sea in a licensed disposal area, about 22 miles offshore, in 50 metres of water.
“It is hoped that some material can be placed in beneficial projects such as Mersea Harbour protection, projects for the Environment Agency and habitat creation.”
The last time the harbour was dredged, to its current depth, was about 20 years ago.
The deepening of the harbour would allow the arrival of container ships longer than The Shard, in London, to enter Harwich Port.
Improving the access to the harbour would mean these ships will be less affected by the tide, and more arrivals and departures can be managed.
“It is hoped that the Marine Management Organisation will make a decision on the project during the second quarter of 2020,” she added.
“If it is approved, work will continue on funding, further site investigation and arranging the dredging contract.”
It is expected that site works would start in early 2021, for completion during 2022.
Former Harwich Port employees think the dredging would be good for the country’s economic growth - but believe the expansion won’t create more jobs for Harwich residents.
Alan Todd, Harwich’s mayor, who worked at Harwich Port until he retired in 2000, said: “My personal opinion is the expansion won’t make any different to economic growth in Harwich.
“If the plan goes ahead and we get extra large ships come into the harbour, I don’t think it will create more jobs for people in Harwich.
“I think only one 400-metre ship would be able to come into the harbour anyway.
“But if we look at the long term plan, the expansion is positive for the country’s trade as imports and exports of goods will increase.
“But I just can’t see any jobs coming into Harwich due to the expansion.”
Garry Calver, who worked in the port’s export shipping department between 1975 and 1991, said: “The dredging will protect the future of the port and will benefit the economy on a national scale, but it may not have a direct impact on jobs in Harwich.
“But apart from anything else, it will help protect the port.”