Setback as Outer Harbour caisson collapses

THE owners of the Outer Harbour have quashed fears that a construction accident in the harbour mouth has caused disruption to shipping traffic.

Chief executive of EastPort, Eddie Freeman, reassured the public that the collapse of a circular caisson near the entrance to the Outer Harbour had no affect on tidal flow or the movement of ships.

Contractors were carrying out the work as part of a project to modify the mouth of the Outer Harbour in a bid to solve a swell problem affecting small vessels.

Mr Freeman said: 'We are anxious for the work to proceed and be completed - that is what we set out to happen.

'We currently have a contracting situation that we have to deal with and then we will move on. It certainly has not been a financial setback.

'The good news is that no-one was hurt during the incident.'

The work involves extending the breakwater arms, which will be densified and heightened with extra rock.

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At the same time, work is ongoing to replace hard rubber cone fenders designed for bigger ships with Yokohama airbag fenders.

The project first began in July, with Eastport expecting to finish the work by late October.

Critics have blamed EastPort for the ongoing swell problem – which has prompted criticism from a ship's captain and led to one vessel leaving port early – because it made design changes to the original plan.

However, Mr Freeman said the main issue was that more smaller vessels were using the harbour than had been originally envisaged.

'The company has decided to narrow the gap between the mouth of the Outer Harbour, taking it down to 150 metres.

'What we have seen is that some of the smaller vessels have been getting discomfort from swell, so we have decided to change some of the fenders and narrow the heads in order to lessen the affects on these vessels.'

Mr Freeman said they were not closing out any type of business by narrowing the harbour entrance – simulations involving the pilots had been very positive, and confirmed that even the largest roll-on roll-off ferries could be accommodated.

Mr Freeman confirmed that the work was costing EastPort a significant sum of money.

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