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Kent & Suffolk beach clearance 

Timber clearance from the beaches of Kent & Suffolk.

At 08.07 on Monday 19th January Russian cargo ship the 'Sinergork' lost approximately 1500 tonnes of untreated sawn timber from her deck during high seas and winds of 48 knotts, in the Southwest Traffic Lane of the Dover Strait 14 miles south-southwest of Beachy Head.. The resultant slick of timber was carried up the English Channel with around 400 to 500 tonnes washing ashore on the Kent coast between Ramsgate and Margate.

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Following a call from our client representing the Insurers and owners of the cargo we hastily mobilised within hours to attend meetings with the Marine & Coastguard Agency, The Emergency Planners for the Local Authority Kent, the Police, Environment Agency and Port Authorities. Within a day we found ourselves in full swing clearing up the beaches with our 360 excavators, articulated dump trucks, all terrain fork lifts and four wheel drive carts.

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As it turned out we also had plenty of help! Members of the public turned up in their thousands to help themselves from the bonanza of timber. We did hear, though cannot prove or disprove, that local wag builders were installing the timber into new build and refurbishment works in the area, only to be castigated by the local authority Building Control Officers.

Our operations at Ramsgate to Margate were constrained along parts of the coastline because of the areas classified as being of Special Scientific Interest, particularly along the Chalf Reefs where we were not allowed to track our machinery. Therefore the timber debris could only be hand picked or allowed to drift back out to sea. The timber that we did collect was transferred to a rented compound within the Ramsgate Port area from which it was dispatched to several ongoing waste facilities.

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The operations in Kent took only 2 weeks to complete from the initial beach areas clearance, transference of the timber to Ramsgate Port facilities and complete the tidy up for de-mobilisation. However, as it turned out that was'nt the end of it despite our client telling us that the timber slick was now 12 miles out to sea and heading towards the Belgian coast. The weather had started to deteriorate out in the channel and the wind had turned from a southwesterly to a northeasterly blowing the timber slick back towards the English coast. Except that it was now heading in further north. On the evening of the 29th March it was spotted by the coastguard drifting ashore at Suffolk and once again we mobilised our plant and labour to hit the beach clean up on the morning of the 30th March 2009. The difference being that this time the timber was spread thinly over a much longer stretch of the coastline that had only one ideal access point for the plant and vehicles. This meant that we were faced with lenghty periods of tracking along the beach to gather and transport the timber back to one of two holding yards that we rented in public car parks at Dunwich and Southwold.

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Despite the miles that our guys had to walk and the vehicles had to track, in often freezing conditions, the clearance works were carried out in the short period of three weeks. This was a testament to the determination and stamina showed by our site teams who did a marvelous job in very difficult conditions and circumstances.

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The contract had both technical and logistical difficulties which were overcome, the whole being completed within programme and with a minimum of distruption.

Worthing Southlands Hospitals