More than 300 business guests were due to attend a ground-breaking ceremony on Thursday to mark the official start of work on site for Peel Ports' £300m deep water container terminal which will enable the world's largest container vessels to port.
A dredging operation to remove one million cubic metres of material from the seabed was being launched by Sir Bobby Charlton and Kenny Dalglish. The two footballing legends were invited to symbolise the benefits that Liverpool 2, along with Peel Ports' investments in facilities along the Manchester Ship Canal, will bring to Liverpool and Manchester.
The new terminal is being constructed on reclaimed land in the Mersey, known as the Seaforth Triangle. Dredging operations launched today will form a 16.5 metre-deep berthing pocket creating the necessary water clearance to allow some of the world's largest container vessels to use the new terminal.
When it opens in Liverpool2 it will enable post-Panamax vessels, wider than the original Panama Canal locks, capable of carrying up to 13,500 containers, known as TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) to call directly at the Port of Liverpool. The port currently handles ships with capacity of 3,000 TEUs. The new terminal will be capable of handling up to 600,000 TEU a year.
Lend Lease won an international procurement competition to become the main contractor at the development.
Peel Ports said Liverpool2 will revolutionise UK logistics by attracting some of the world's largest container vessels to a centrally located UK distribution hub and a population of 35 million consumers within a radius of 150 miles. Liverpool2 will enable container ships from around the world to connect directly with the northern half of the UK and Ireland, and so serve a market estimated at around 4 million containers a year.
Mark Whitworth, group chief executive of Peel Ports, said the investment will make an already strong commercial proposition "more compelling than ever". He added: "The Port of Liverpool has already seen increased interest from shipping lines and cargo owners. Over the last 18 months APL, Evergreen and Zim have started to offer weekly feeder connections into Liverpool, whilst MSC and CMA have continued to grow their long-standing feeder volumes through the port. Liverpool2 sends a fantastic message to shippers and the wider international trade world – namely, that Liverpool is investing heavily to secure their business now and in the future".
Gary Hodgson, managing director of Peel Ports Mersey, said: "This is the culmination of several years' hard work, developing the business plan, securing finance and procuring the delivery of the key elements of the scheme. Whether we are talking about developing our role as the hub for the Irish Sea or grabbing the attention of ship operators and traders across the globe, our investment in Liverpool2 will make a huge difference to our commercial offer. This is private sector investment in the nation's infrastructure, making the UK even more competitive, internationally."
Of the £300m construction cost for Liverpool2 £150m was provided by a 25-year European Investment Bank loan.
Jonathan Taylor, vice president of the European Investment Bank said that the Luxembourg-based organisation is committed to supporting infrastructure investment. He said: "Construction work starting today will enhance operations of the Port of Liverpool, one of Europe's leading ports, and enable access by the next generation of larger ships.
"Expansion of the Port of Liverpool will not only create significant local employment during construction, but also improve shipping links across the North Atlantic and increase access to global markets for companies across the North West in years to come. The £150m support provided by the European Investment Bank demonstrates our strong confidence in the project and reflects our broader commitment to provide long-term funding for transport infrastructure across the UK."
Doug Coleman, project director at Peel Ports, said: "The last few months have seen an intense amount of planning and preparatory work completed on the scheme's detailed design. It is intensely pleasing that we remain on programme and there is a real sense of satisfaction that we are now in the construction phase of Liverpool2."
The construction programme will include:
- 854 metre-long quay wall with 30,000 cubic metres of concrete required for the capping beam
- 15,000 metres of steel piles weighing around 20,000 tonnes
- Three million cubic metres of infill to create new container area which will require 230,000 square metres of new surfacing
- 6,100 metres of new crane rails
- 3,500 metres of new roads
The project will require eight ship-to-shore cranes and 27 rail mounted gantry cranes, and around 2,500 metres of new fencing will be needed as work gets underway.