Aberdeen South Harbour: a project of national significance

After seven years of masterplanning, design and consultation and six years of construction, Aberdeen Harbour Board completed its £420 million flagship port expansion project in summer 2023. We supported Aberdeen at every stage of development of South Harbour. 

Significant project, significant challenges

Construction work to expand the Port into neighbouring Nigg Bay, started in June 2017, with a phased opening beginning in July 2022.

South Harbour adds 1,700 metres of quay length to service the offshore oil, gas and wind industries, cruise ships and ferries, creating significant economic growth opportunities for the harbour and its customers. The new deepwater berths can accommodate much longer ships of 300m. 

It’s the largest greenfield port development project in the UK for many years, and the Scottish Government consider it a project of national significance.

Located on the east coast of Scotland, Nigg Bay is exposed to severe waves; under certain conditions, waves can reach over eight metres in height. The design, construction and operation of the new harbour presented some significant challenges.

Fast-forward on design optimisation

Comprehensive support at every stage

HR Wallingford’s team worked with Aberdeen Harbour Board from the conceptual stages of the development, right through to the construction.

We helped Aberdeen Harbour Board masterplan the development. Our pre-feasibility, feasibility and detailed design work has helped to ensure that the design, construction and operation of the new harbour provides the best possible solution for Aberdeen Harbour Board. Our integrated suite of technology and tools has helped us to deliver a lower cost and safer design, potentially saving our client millions of pounds sterling.

Studies have included extensive modelling of waves and currents, layout and breakwater design, navigation simulation in the state-of-the-art UK Ship Simulation Centre and support to the environmental approvals.

2D and 3D hydraulic physical modelling of the harbour was used to test the proposed design and layout, and to verify and optimise the performance of the harbour’s breakwaters under a range of wave conditions.

A virtual reality simulation of the new harbour was set up in our UK Ship Simulation Centre, The simulation was underpinned by HR Wallingford’s ship models, tidal flow, wave and wind models. This allowed harbour pilots to navigate different vessels into the harbour under different conditions to check and optimise the layout. 

Project snapshots

We optimised the harbour design in our physical modelling laboratory.

We created a virtual reality simulation of the planned harbour layout in our Ship Simulation Centre.

Initial assessment of the impact of waves on the new South Harbour.

HR Wallingford’s team used a comprehensive package of tools and technology on the Nigg Bay project. Their expertise and approach has enabled us to get planning consents and optimise the design of the harbour. They have helped us to reduce both project cost and programme.

Keith Young, Engineering Director, Aberdeen Harbour Board

Main image courtesy of Aberdeen Harbour Board.

Want to know more?

Headshot of Ian Cruickshank, Director of engineering & delivery
Ian Cruickshank
Director of Engineering and Delivery
+44 (0)1491 822899
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