A major programme of repairs is underway at the iconic breakwater at South Gare after the structure suffered serious damage in the face of extraordinary sea conditions during Storm Babet.
Concrete slabs weighing up to 50 tonnes were ‘tossed about like pebbles’ during Storm Babet in October, as the breakwater took the brunt of fierce winds and waves which reached several metres high.
PD Ports, as Statutory Harbour Authority for Teesport and the Port of Hartlepool, with responsibility for the maintenance and safe passage of the many thousands of vessels that visit its waters every year, has committed £1.5m to repair the damage to the structure.
The first phase of repair works has seen 200 cubic metres of concrete injected into the voids left by the broken slabs to repair the immediate damage, with work set to continue into 2024 as weather conditions allow.
PD Ports, and its predecessor companies, have been guardians of the River Tees and its environs since 1852 as Statutory Harbour Authority.
The company was responsible for the building the breakwater, with construction starting in 1863 and completed in 1888, as a means of protecting the entrance of the port from rough sea conditions.
The lighthouse at the tip of South Gare, itself a listed structure and one of only a few left operational in the UK, was established in 1884 and continues to provide a vital service in providing safe entry to Teesport.
Frans Calje, chief executive officer of PD Ports, said: “The conditions at South Gare during Storm Babet can only be described as extraordinary. The scale of the forces that hit the structure that day are hard to imagine – huge concrete blocks were tossed about like pebbles.
“I have to pay tribute to our predecessors and the workforce who built the breakwater at South Gare more than 150 years ago. It is an iconic piece of the Teesside landscape and a vital protector of our industrial platform.
“Teesport is one of the largest port complexes in the UK and the river is the lifeblood of many of our region’s key industries – from offshore energy, the chemical sector and of course our own operations.
“Climate change means that we will see more major weather events like Storm Babet and we are looking at our options beyond the immediate repair to see what can be done to strengthen the breakwater and keep it operating as it has done since 1888.”
Jerry Hopkinson, executive chairman at PD Ports, said: “Our role as Statutory Harbour Authority is one that we take tremendously seriously and we are committed to protecting the gare, the river and its business community.
“The structure has taken a hammering, it was battered by the waves, but it is still standing and it is still providing protection to the river.
“We are prepared to do what is necessary to strengthen the gare and keep it functioning for many more years to come.”
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