Port of Southampton completes substantial wreck clearance project on River Itchen

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Three of the wrecks cleared at Northam on the River Itchen


ABP’s Port of Southampton has completed the latest part of a programme to clear wrecked and abandoned vessels across its jurisdiction, with 22 wrecks removed from Northam on the River Itchen over the past month.

Wrecked and abandoned vessels are an issue across the UK, where, for a variety of reasons, they are no longer used by their owners, instead becoming dilapidated, sometimes taking on water and silt, breaking apart and partially or completely sinking, often posing a navigational hazard to water users. In late 2021, the Port of Southampton’s Harbour Master’s team began a substantial programme to clear wrecks across the jurisdiction, prioritising those with the highest navigational risk. This has involved clearing wrecks from Calshot and Southampton Water as well as this large cluster by Northam Bridge, one of the main thoroughfares into and out of the city.

“The feedback we have had from local residents has been fantastic,” says ABP Southampton’s Harbour Master, Steve Masters, “They are enjoying looking at a vastly improved area and they appreciate what a complex process wreck removal is, not just in tracing owners, serving 28 days’ notices and carrying out full risk assessments for each vessel, but also in the physical process of securing each vessel, checking for contaminates and other hazards on board, and then lifting out, breaking down and disposing of the vessels safely.”

ABP worked with a team of specialist salvage divers from Seatech Commercial Diving on this part of the programme, which has involved some very complex and large wrecks. Divers work to secure vessels before each is lifted on to a barge and broken down. ABP works in partnership with the Crown Estate regarding any wrecks that are sitting on the shore or riverbed - areas owned by the Crown Estate.  

The next stage of the programme, which kicks off later this summer, will be to clear further wrecked and abandon vessels just to the South of the Northam Bridge, ensuring a clearer, safe environment for all.