UK. Huge new sea gates installed at Sharpness Docks

Friday, 26 March 2010


A set of enormous £1 million steel sea gates has been installed at Sharpness Docks in Gloucestershire, replacing the original guardians which have held back the sea for more than 50 years, safeguarding the harbour and canal.

Installation of the gates, weighing more than 70 tonnes each, was completed early on Tuesday, March 16 in a joint operation between British Waterways and infrastructure services company May Gurney.

Having been floated into Sharpness Docks from Deest in Holland, where they were made by Ravestein BV, the gates were craned into place and secured by a team including specialist divers.

The operation began on Monday evening and was completed as sea mist rolled in over the Severn Estuary the following morning.

Peter Mosey, project manager for May Gurney, said the gates were ready for use a day ahead of schedule and had already been opened to allow a 6,000 tonne Russian ship to dock.

“Fortunately we didn’t need to replace the pintles on the hinges, which have stood the test of time really well considering they have been there for more than 50 years,” he added.

“We’ve managed to take about an hour off the time it takes to get a ship in and out because, unlike the old gates, the new gates don’t leak.

“It used to take much longer to fill up the dock with water, so that’s one aspect we’re really pleased about.”

Working with the tides, the first gate was fitted at about 11.30pm on Monday night, with work starting again at 6.30am the next day to fit the second gate.

“It was a very satisfying end to a nine-month project, although the actual job was short and intensive and, though we were confident it would go to plan, it was still a relief to see it all working,” added Peter.

The gates form a crucial part of the sea defences, maintaining water levels within the canal system while forming a barrier against the huge 10-metre range of the Severn Estuary tides.

By maintaining the harbour’s integrity against unpredictable weather, these gates protect jobs for important local employers like British Waterways, Sharpness Ship Yard and Sharpness Dock Ltd.

British Waterways project manager, Will Burnish, said the undertaking was planned to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

“These gates were transported the entire distance from Holland by sea. The former gates will now be taken to Holland for refurbishment then returned for re-installation as the middle set of three within the entrance lock complex,” said Mr Burnish.

The new steel gates are designed for buoyancy despite their enormous weight, and are among the largest of their kind in the United Kingdom.

“This really was a once in a lifetime event – the last ones were installed in 1958 and have withstood the worst weather the Severn Estuary has thrown at them,” Mr Burnish added.

Sharpness Docks was closed during the operation to allow both sets of gates to be floated in and out.

May Gurney is also carrying out structural and decking work on the nearby north pier and stabilisation of the dock wall.

See Sharpness Docks new sea gates images:  

Last Updated ( Friday, 26 March 2010 )