Work is underway on widening and deepening a critical part of the access channel to the container terminal in the port of Southampton.

This is a key element in the £150m development at the city’s container terminal by Associated British Ports to ensure the port is able to continue handling the largest vessels afloat.

Following last month’s announcement that the Marine Management Organisation had issued the necessary consents to un-dertake the work the dredging contract was awarded to Boskalis Westminster.

The removal of 450,000 cubic metres of material at Marchwood will widen the navigation channel by 30m, improving accessibility and manoeuvrability for container vessels.

The importance of the work for the port was underlined by the speed in which Boskalis Westminster was able to reposition its dredger Manu Pekka so work could start immediately. Manu Pekka is a back-hoe dredger fitted with an eight cubic metre bucket which can dredge to a depth of 18.5m.

Four barges were also mobilised from as far away as Malmo in Sweden to Southampton to begin the task of ferrying the material to the licensed disposal site off the Isle of Wight.

Paul Datson, Boskalis Westminster’s head of capital and coastal business sector, said: “We are glad to be working back in Southamp-ton for ABP and very pleas-ed to be associated with a relatively small but important part of the development. While this type of project is straightforward it involves a significant amount of equipment, which we have been able to move to Southampton at short notice.”

The work is expected to be completed by March.