The Solent Forum

Working in parnership for the future

Marine Aggregates

The Solent is an active focus for the aggregates industry, this activity can be divided into two functions:

  1. Extraction of aggregates off the south east coast of the Isle of Wight, and in Christchurch Bay.
  2. Landing of aggregates, including both marine dredged material and imported crushed rock. Landing for use on the mainland takes place at a number of wharves on the Rivers Itchen and Test, and at Portsmouth and Langstone Harbours. Marine aggregates are supplied to the Isle of Wight via wharves at Cowes and Newport. Kendalls wharf is a high volume marine aggregates processing terminal in Langstone Harbour. The terminal receives marine aggregates taken from the sea bed which once landed are washed and graded to sizes that reflect the demands of the construction industry.

Trends in demand for aggregates are principally governed by the market responding to the construction industry, such as housing and road building. Marine aggregates are also used in beach replenishment schemes. Large volumes of aggregates are pumped directly from dredgers onto beaches, providing coastal protection as well as enhancing the amenity value and therefore the economy of an area.

The British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) is the representative trade body for the British marine aggregate industry and a member of the Solent Forum. This Association (BMAPA) and The Crown Estate published a ‘Fifteen-Year Review’ which provides a unique overview of the changes in the area of seabed licensed and dredged between 1998 and 2012, enabling greater understanding of the nation’s marine mineral dredging activity and more sustainable management over the long term. It follows the fifteen-year anniversary, in 2013, of the ‘Area Involved Initiative’ and builds on the previous five and ten-year reviews, published in 2005 and 2009 respectively.

BMAPA estimates suggest that between 3.2 and 3.8 billion tonnes of construction aggregates will be required by 2030 to support society’s ongoing need for homes, hospitals and schools, alongside the energy, water and transport infrastructure we rely upon. Marine aggregates already make a significant contribution to the ‘steady and adequate’ supply of these essential mineral resources, particularly at a regional scale. Of the 20 million tonnes of marine sand and gravel typically extracted from licensed areas around England and Wales each year, over half (c.11Mt) are landed in London and the South East of England. This is significant, given that one third of all GB construction activity takes place here, representing a value of some £50 billion per annum. Elsewhere, marine supplies also provide an important role supporting regional construction activity in the North East, the South West and the North West.

The distribution of commercially viable marine sand and gravel resources around our coastline is highly limited, constrained by their geological distribution and their geographic position relative to the market’s location. Therefore, continued long-term access to commercially viable sources of marine sand and gravel is fundamental to the ability of the marine aggregate sector to meet future demand, as is the need to safeguard these important mineral resources for potential use in the future.

The Crown Estate owns most of the seabed around the UK out to the 12 nautical mile territorial limit and has the rights to all non-energy minerals within the remainder of the UK continental shelf.  It will licence marine aggregate extraction, if the Government has issued a favourable permission.  The Crown Estate's website gives details on the area of seabed licensed, dredged and surrendered each year.