The new £350 million city harbour will offer a “huge opportunity for the whole region” according to the future facility’s boss.
The extension of Aberdeen Harbour at Nigg Bay, which is on track to be completed by 2020, will allow larger cruise ships to berth alongside the dock than can stop at Aberdeen Harbour, eliminating the need for operators to ferry passengers ashore.
The Evening Express got a first look by sea at the ongoing work of Aberdeen South Harbour and heard from harbour master Jeff Gaskin of the on-schedule progress, who said it would be the “biggest harbour in Scotland by berthage”.
Mr Gaskin said: “Cruises normally sail past us because they can’t come in to the current harbour at the moment.
“We hope the part of the new harbour will fulfil the requirement for us.
“It’s all looking good so far. We’ve already had a few tentative inquiries and a booking.
“VisitAberdeenshire is working with us to make Aberdeen and the shire a destination – so hopefully we will have a combined product that everyone can say ‘Yes, this is worth coming to’.
“As a port we work with them and can say ‘this is what we think cruise ships want and what passengers need’. So, we will try to deliver that and work with the city and the shire.
“This can be a huge opportunity for the whole region.”
The harbour master explained the current infrastructure is too narrow and a wider harbour would help attract other industries to the area.
He added: “The turns circle, which allows vessels to enter and exit, in the original harbour it is 165m and the turn circle (at Nigg) will be about 300m.
“After the expansion, we will have 1,400m of quay space.
“When we have the two ports together we will be the largest port in Scotland for berthage.
“The current harbour only has 70m across the navigation channel that ships can use and before this it was only 33m wide before the expansion in 2012.
“To increase the operational efficiency of the port in 2012, there were the plans in mind for Nigg.
“They were running with scenarios and possibilities.
“And now it’s come online with the building phase now under way.”
Dredgers are on site to excavate underwater to get the depth the quay will need.
Mr Gaskin said: “Once we get all the extra material off the seabed, we then have to go in and drill down into the rock, lay a small amount of explosives and then we blast it to crack it – then we take it away.
“When I talk to the engineers they tell me between four and five tonne of core material is being delivered from Leiths everyday, which is the core material they’re dropping into the seabed to build the base for the structure to be on (the piers and breakwaters).”
Work has also started on the access road for the south breakwater.
Aberdeen Harbour Board previously announced the installation of the first accropodes, interlocking cement blocks, used as protection for the north and south breakwaters at the new South Harbour. They have now been produced and are waiting to be put into place.
Mr Gaskin added: “We have the only facility in the world licenced to create these large accropodes – so it is a unique facility. The accropodes give protection to the core material that’s underneath.”
The next phase in the project will see a 165ft long by 53ft high structure to help create a quay, allowing the harbour to accommodate far heavier loads.
Being manufactured in La Coruna in north-west Spain by Dragados Offshore, the huge caisson unit is due to be transferred to Aberdeen next month.