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One of Portsmouth International Port’s most complex engineering projects, undertaken by Knights Brown during a period of significant challenge, has resulted in welcoming the largest cruise ship to ever sail into Portsmouth with the arrival of  Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas on Friday 10 July.

Completion of the port’s multi-million pound berth extension means it can now manage larger ships, evidenced by Majesty of the Seas at 268m. Weighing over 73,000 GT, in tonnage this is the largest ship the city has seen and demonstrates the capabilities now available at the port.

Bryan Kennedy, Divisional Director for Knights Brown said: “Little could we have foreseen the additional challenges we would be presented with when we were awarded the design and construct contract to lower and extend the berth in September. At that time the priority was completing the works ahead of the new cruise season. Although the reason changed, the urgency to complete the contract did not. Our team has delivered a technically challenging project despite the difficulties brought about by the pandemic.

“I am particularly proud not only of our response to the exceptional circumstances but also our execution of the most challenging aspects. Notably lifting in the 60t prefabricated steel carousel structure and deconstructing the capping beam with some sections being lifted out, weighing as much as 70 tons. We’ve worked on two fronts simultaneously to minimise the programme with marine operations based off a spud leg barge. And we’ve worked with some pretty impressive equipment, including a 330t crawler crane, the largest hydraulic pile driving hammer in the UK, and a supply barge. On the landside, we had 160t and 80t crawler cranes.”

Mike Sellers Portsmouth International Port’s director said: “This is a major milestone for our ambitions. When we embarked on the construction we knew it was a complex development.  Operating in a marine environment always poses significant challenges, for what can appear a straightforward project. When the pandemic arrived we were well into the work and any delays would have had a substantial impact. As a lifeline port it’s critical we can accommodate a range of ships and we needed our berth back in action as soon as possible. Little did we know as soon the berth was ready for service, we’d have the largest cruise ship the city has seen alongside. Everyone in the ports industry has stepped up to support one another where possible, and we’re pleased we could support Royal Caribbean International. Ports have a vital role to play in the economic recovery of the country, if we can operate successfully that has an impact on everyone else getting back to business as usual.”

Investment in the port’s infrastructure is part of an ambitious strategy to continue growth as a leading player in the maritime industry and one of the UK’s most sustainable ports.

Anisa Koci, Portsmouth International Port’s project manager for the scheme said: “I am delighted and ever so proud to see Majesty of the Seas moored alongside our new extended berth. The levelling and extension of the berth alongside the installation of the new dolphin structure (approximately 30m offset seaside from dolphin no 2) has been a great project to deliver but at the same time has had many challenges to overcome. Gaining approval only in January 2019, this scheme was programme driven making it even more challenging. With only five months to sketch the project and appoint a contractor to start the construction works in November 2019, it seems like a mirage seeing the largest ship we have ever had being alongside the new berth.

“The new extended deck, the size of two football pitches in length, was constructed on tubular piles (30-60 tonne each) that were driven through by one of the largest piling hammers in the UK. More than 1,000 cubic metres of concrete was poured to give the structure the required strength to approach ships to the size of Majesty of the Seas.

“Undertaking the works in a live marine environment and during the winter months required a truly collaborative approach between Portsmouth International Port and Knights Brown to successfully deliver the project.

“The pandemic hit this project even before the UK as one of the critical elements of the scheme, the fenders were being manufactured in Malaysia. This had a significant impact on the project programme of works.

“The robust, windy winter and the two storms certainly extended the list of challenges especially when essential parts of the project included heavyweight operations like the installation of the 60 tonne carousel structure and the partial demolition and removal of the finger berth.”