The port operator has refused to explain problems hampering construction of the £300m container terminal, which is set to massively expand capacity at Port of Liverpool and deliver a significant boost to the industrial property market across the region when it finally opens.
The port operator, 51% owned by Peel and 49% by Deutsche Bank infrastructure fund RREEF, spent 2015 saying the new facility would be open to ships by the end of the year. However, Peel Ports this week said it would not issue a statement or put anyone up for interview about the reasons for the delay.
Rumours circulating the project point to a host of issues such as the discovery of bedrock closer to the surface of the river than expected, triggering delays to rock-cutting and steel piling to create the deep-water pocket alongside the new river wall. Another source said the wrong size of barge was chosen to carry out the piling, slowing the process further, and a larger barge had to be brought in to try and speed up construction.
The new structure requires 300 piles and will run more than 800 metres along the river, rising 30 metres out of the water, capable of welcoming two ships at once. Five giant cranes arrived late last year from China to service the new yard.
Poor weather during autumn and winter is also believed to have resulted in a loss of significant man-hours on the project.
It is understood a set of ship-to-shore gantry cranes, in addition to the giant Chinese cranes, has also yet to be installed. Peel Ports declined to comment on the specific reasons for the delay.
The main contractors are Bam Nuttall and, for the dredging, Van Oord. More than 30 acres of land are being reclaimed from the river to create the massive container terminal.
In February 2015, port director David Huck said the quay wall was nearly complete and construction was nearly back on track after poor weather in winter 2014/15 caused delays.
Liverpool 2 is needed to allow the port to welcome the new generation of mega-ships, which currently cannot call at Liverpool due to the 10-metre tidal range and narrow lock entrance to the existing port.
Peel Ports hopes Liverpool 2 will attract today’s big ships, capable of carrying 13,500 containers, encouraging them to switch deliveries from Felixstowe and Southampton to serve customers in the North, Scotland and Ireland. Currently the lock system and tidal movements of the Mersey estuary limits ships to 4,500 containers in size, the older generation of freight services.
Before Christmas, Peel Ports chief executive Mark Whitworth told news agency Reuters that Liverpool 2 was expected to open in quarter one of this year but that revised date is understood to be subject to further review.