The Port of Southampton is located at a strategic position on the south coast, in close proximity to the international shipping lanes. The Port handles some 64,000 vessel movements per annum.
Associated British Ports (ABP), in its capacity as statutory harbour authority, is charged with maintaining safe access for commercial and recreational vessels to the main port facilities. This includes a requirement to manage maintenance dredging for the approach channels and alongside the berths. As well as ABP dredging activities, there are a number of third parties, such as the Ministry of Defence, Exxon Mobil, private berth holders and marina operators who also undertake maintenance dredging in order to maintain a safe depth of water at their terminals and facilities.
Maintenance dredging is regarded as a plan or project under European law. In order to ascertain whether maintenance dredging is having an effect on sites designated for their nature conservation interest, harbour authorities are required to compile information on historical dredging activities.
This information is provided in a Maintenance Dredging Baseline Document and is intended to assist a Competent Authority (normally the Marine Management Organisation) to consider the possibility of a likely significant effect, either alone or in-combination with other plans or projects, to sites which have a high nature conservation interest. ABP has also considered the effect of maintenance dredging on water quality in accordance with the provisions of the Water Framework Directive.