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Port of Calais Expansion Underway

By Kevin Wilcox

A $725-million project will add important capacity to key ferry port that annually averages more than 10 million passengers.

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The Port of Calais, which sees 18,000 passenger ferry crossings per day, is undergoing a €675-million ($725-million) expansion to increase its capacity and enable it to accommodate the newer 240 m long ships that many of leading ferry companies would like to deploy. Calais Port 2015

January 12, 2016—The picturesque Port of Calais in Northern France holds an important role in the history of Europe that extends back to the Middle Ages. England and France wrested control of the port from each other several times over the period, both prizing the vital connection it provided to Europe for the trade of such early commodities as tin, lead, lace, and wool.

More than 650 years later, the Port of Calais is still important, but for different reasons. It is now the largest passenger port in France, accommodating an average of more than 10 million passengers a year in approximately 18,000 crossings, primarily connecting with the Port of Dover in the United Kingdom. Additionally about 41 million metric tons of vehicular traffic traverse the port, including 2.2 million passenger cars and 1.4 million freight trucks.

The owner of the port, a governmental body known as the Nord Pas de Calais Regional Council, is undertaking an impressive two-phase, €675-million ($725-million) expansion project to increase the capacity of the port and enable it to accommodate the newer 240 m long ships that many of the leading ferry companies would like to deploy in the area. "The new port will provide an additional three new service berths and ground infrastructure, such as buildings, roads, and yards [and] a new 3.2 km long breakwater," said Jochem Binst, head of external communications in Europe for Arcadis, an international design and consultancy firm, who provided written responses to questions posed by Civil Engineering . Arcadis is the lead engineering firm for the extension project in a joint venture led by Bouygues, an industrial group headquartered in France that includes a construction branch. Arcadis will provide the final detailed design of the expansion and supervise the site during construction.

The project will present a number of challenges to the engineers and the construction team. One of the more significant examples is the geotechnical conditions at the 44 ha site, which comprise sandy deposits of fill approximately 15 to 20 m deep over a stratum of Argile des Flandres clay. The project will include 10 bridges and overpasses, as well as several new buildings.

"Pile foundations are required for the heavy structures," said Binst. "Consolidation by preloading and drainage is envisioned for light structures and the yard."

Another key challenge is building the 3.2 km breakwater from dredged material while the site is exposed to the possible effects of harsh weather, including high waves. The breakwater will eventually be protected by concrete blocks as large as 14 m square, but for now, the engineers are working with 2-D and 3-D modeling programs to design temporary protection works for the shore, as well as the permanent protection system.  "[Two dimensional] numerical models have been utilized in a first step," Binst explained. "Then 3-D physical models have been developed to evaluate the effects of swell and the potential erosion [on] existing structures as well as the projected ones."

This modeling will enable the team to hone in on the best protection system for the breakwater, as well as the best type and grain size of fill material to be utilized during construction to limit the potential damages to the works should harsh weather occur, according to Binst.

The new ferry piers will be constructed from reinforced concrete, founded on steel or sheet piles. The project will add three piers to the existing five that are currently servicing approximately 50 crossings per day—averaging one every 30 minutes—the majority operated by P&O Ferries, headquartered in Dover, United Kingdom.

In a September 9, 2015, press release from Arcadis France, chief executive officer Luc Hellemans stated, "This is a tremendous project to work on. Calais is one of the busiest ports in Europe, and this extension will enable it to meet its capacity demands for a long time to come. We have worked on the development of Calais' port for many years, so we are very much looking forward to being involved in developing this next-generation port."

The project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2021.   


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