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Dredging: Thames Estuary

Volume 487: debated on Monday 9 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the dredge in the Thames Estuary for the London Gateway Port channel is proposed to start; for what reason the dredge is to be carried out; what safeguards against disturbances of munitions will be in place; what the shortest distance is between the wreck of SS Richard Montgomery and the area affected by the dredge; who is to carry out the dredge; and what consultation took place with (a) communities affected and (b) users of the Thames Estuary before the proposal was finalised. (254478)

The timing of the proposed dredge is a matter for London Gateway Port Ltd., subject to completion of the statutory consent process. The dredge is required in order to accommodate deep sea container vessels serving the new London Gateway port.

Standard dredging practice in the Thames Estuary established by the Port of London Authority covers matters such as handling the incidental lifting of munitions left on the sea bed. Magnetometer surveys have also been conducted in order to provide the best advance information.

The shortest distance from the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery to the southern edge of the proposed channel is just over 2.2 kilometres. The shortest distance from the channel to the edge of the wreck exclusion zone is 2.1 kilometres.

The choice of dredging contractor is an operational matter for London Gateway Port Ltd.

A public inquiry took place in 2003. Subsequently London Gateway Port Ltd. has set up a Marine Ecological Advisory Group which includes representatives from the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Marine and Fisheries Agency, the Port of London Authority and the Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries Committee, to consider among other matters the impacts of dredging.