ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGNERS dug in this week for a battle against plans by port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) for a new hub container port at Dibden Bay, Southampton.
ABP wants to develop deepwater port facilities opposite the existing Port of Southampton to handle the colossal new 350m long, 4.3m draft container ships now coming into service.
But opponents of the £600M scheme fear that dredging and construction of quayside facilities will destroy mudflats and wetland that are designated sites of special scientific interest.
A public inquiry into the scheme kicked off on Tuesday and is already being dubbed 'the Terminal Five of the maritime industry'. It is expected to take at least a year.
ABP claims its existing Port of Southampton facilities cannot be expanded to meet projected container traffic growth of 5% a year. The new 360ha terminal, it believes, will allow it to compete for international trans-shipment business with continental hub terminals such as Hamburg, Le Havre, Antwerp and Rotterdam.
The plan includes quayside facilities for up to six ships, hard standing for storage and container handling, a new rail freight terminal, sidings and marshalling yards, an aggregates terminal, offices and warehouses, and a lorry park.
To compensate for the loss of mudflats and wetland areas, ABP has proposed construction of a new 1.5km long inter-tidal creek. It also plans to plant 300,000 trees.
However, although much of the traffic through Dibden Bay will be ship to ship, with large vessels offloading cargo to smaller ships, it will also become a key container distribution point for the south east England and the Midlands. New transport upgrades will also be needed, including revamping existing rail links plus new access to, and widening of, the A326.