A new phase of dredging the river Tees has begun, with materials to be disposed of at sea.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen says this will pave the way for thousands of jobs. He maintains the work can go ahead after a report by the Crustacean Mortality Expert Panel concluded it was “exceptionally unlikely” that dredging by Teesworks caused mass crab deaths on the coast in 2021 – though controversy continued as campaigners dismissed the report as “rubbish”.

He said: “We’ve supported those people who say we need to find what caused the die-off, and at the moment the most likely working theory is it could be a foreign pathogen or a disease that caused that. The science is very clear as to what didn’t cause it.

Read more: 'We may never know what caused mass crab deaths' admits Government minister

“Although we might not know what caused it, we’ve got a very very strong set of data and science that shows what didn’t cause it. That allows us to get on with the jobs we said we were going to deliver.”

This is a second phase of dredging to take about a million cubic metres of non-contaminated material from the river bed and depositing it about seven nautical miles out at sea. A first dredge of material which was deemed contaminated and needed to be brought ashore and disposed of on land, has finished, leaving material which is deemed suitable to be disposed of at sea.

The Northern Echo: Thousands of crustaceans have been reported to have died off the Tees coast since October 2021 with no single cause yet identified.Thousands of crustaceans have been reported to have died off the Tees coast since October 2021 with no single cause yet identified.

The work will make way for the new £107m South Bank Quay which will serve facilities including South Korean firm SeAH’s huge £400m turbine factory, which will make monopiles for offshore wind farms and will bring more than 2,000 jobs.

Mr Houchen said: “Following the publication of Patrick Vallance’s independent report, the science has been very clear on what didn’t cause the die-off in October 2021. Dredging and chemical pollution had a less than 1% likelihood of being the cause, something we already knew given that the work that we started didn’t even start until 11 months after the die-off had occurred.

“So we waited for the science to show that what we were doing was safe, was to the appropriate environmental standards and now today that means we can get on and we can continue to finish the project that we’re delivering.

“That means finishing the dredging along the river, doing it to the highest environmental standards, and when that’s finished over the next few months we’ll have a brand new quay supporting thousands of jobs in factories that will then be exporting products across the rest of the world.

Read more: Calls for no new restrictions on dredging in River Tees without 'credible evidence'

“They’re going along the river bed and they’re taking the river bed down to just over 12m in depth. That’s the standard depth of the river and that has been maintained at that level for many many years. That needs to be done to make sure the ships going down the river can pass appropriately and safely.

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“It’s taken nearly two years to get all the sign-offs, the appropriate testing has to be done, the conditions have to be met. There are a multitude of organisations that feed into a licence that you have to get before you can start dredging.

“That’s not a quick process. It’s a two-year process going into minute detail to make sure that what is being done is done to the highest standards.

“We’ve done that and that means that we have to now carry out the work in line with that licence to make sure there is no impact. We’ve tested for a huge variety of chemicals.

“We’re absolutely proud to say that what we’re doing here isn’t just meeting the regulatory minimum. We’ve gone well in excess of that.”

Read more: Academic refutes panel report on crustacean deaths

A dredger boat, the Athena, has started work out in the river this week along with a sand carrier and other vessels. Jonny Martin, project manager from Graham Construction, said the last three vessels arrived on site yesterday.


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He said: “Overall there’s approximately a million cubic metres of material to be removed and disposed of at sea. We’ve got two sand carriers on site which carry approximately 10,000 cubic metres of material each, they’ll take the material from the dredge out to the sea disposal site, which is approximately seven nautical miles off shore.

“The dredger is lifting material off the river bed, pumping it through the floating pipeline on to the sand carrier. Once the sand carrier’s full, they’ll sail out to the disposal site.
“They open the bottom of the boat and the material comes out of the sand carrier and is deposited on to the sea bed.”