A port emerges from the sea

The construction site at the Värta Pier

Concrete block after concrete block is now being laid to build the new Värta Pier. It takes enormous machines, great professional skill and extremely detailed planning to carry out a project of this magnitude. The result will be a port that is better for shipping, for the environment and for the rapidly growing Stockholm and the needs of the city for goods and housing.

There is a lot less noise than you might expect when a long, hollow pipe with a diameter of between 86 and 116 centimetres is driven down into the seabed outside Värtahamnen. It is the middle of the morning, the sun is shining and it is the huge crane out on the water that is driving yet another of the 1001 pilings into position to form the foundations of the new pier.

Closer to the shoreline another crane is slowly lowering into place yet another of the 880 huge concrete blocks. The 8 x 8 metre huge concrete blocks are placed between the pre-cast pile caps and from a distance the growing pile deck looks like an enormous jigsaw that someone is laying out on the surface of the sea.

“Building a pile deck is extremely demanding. Everything must be done in the correct order and it takes a lot of logistics planning on the water and on land,” says Peter Kjeldahl-Braad, unit head of the Danish company Aarsleff A/S, the construction contractor.

Well-planned construction

All of the materials must be on site in advance so that there are no avoidable delays. The pilings are custom-built in Turkey and the concrete blocks are manufactured in Poland. They must be ordered months in advance. There is no room here for improvisation.

The dimensions and enormity of the undertaking become obvious when you gaze out over the building site that will become the new port within a few years. Värtahamnen is undergoing a conversion of major proportions and when everything is completed the port will have five quay-berths instead of the current four, 1200 metres of quayside and a magnificent terminal building too. The port will be more green, more modern and more efficient.

If the building of the pier looks like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle at the moment, the building of the new port is part of something even larger. When the pier is completed and Ports of Stockholm can move port operations there, the land area made available to the City of Stockholm will amount to 85,000 m2. This land will be used to build the Stockholm Royal Seaport, a new city district with homes offices and business premises.

Ferry services operate normally

A major challenge faced by the project is that it will be carried out at the same time as services will operate to and from the port according to their regular timetables. Here we are talking about a port that 1.6 million tonnes of goods and 4 million passengers pass through every year.

“We are accustomed to facing this type of challenge, but naturally this places high demands on planning and communication with the parties concerned,” says Peter Kjeldahl-Braad.

The mild winter followed by the hot summer has been beneficial for the project. Thick ice can cause problems, for example, and can move the pilings before they are fully bedded in.

When you walk around the construction site you are struck by all the operations that are going on, but also by how smoothly everything is happening. There will be even more people arriving to perform construction, but they are well prepared for this.

“The more people there are who need to share the space, the greater the demands for planning and for paying attention to each other,” says Peter Kjeldahl-Braad.

Workers from many countries

In total there are already one hundred people working on the construction of the port and it is a highly international project. There are workers from Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania and several other countries. Peter Kjeldahl-Braad, who is himself Danish, perceives working in Sweden to be a pleasant experience.

“This is a nice country to work in and I find it difficult to put my finger on what the differences are compared to working in Denmark,” says Peter Kjeldahl-Braad.

At the construction site you can still hear the rhythmic sound of the pilings being driven into the seabed and the huge concrete blocks that previously hung in the air have now landed in the correct place, between four pilings.

“The pile driving and laying of the concrete blocks will be completed by the beginning of next year, but we will start to fill the pile deck with gravel already this autumn,” informs Peter Kjeldahl-Braad.

A port will emerge from the sea and a city will emerge from the port. It is exciting to see how the new port is growing, piling by piling and concrete block by concrete block. Soon it will be easy to envisage how nice it will be.

Some important milestones

April 2011: The Swedish Environmental Court agreed to the building of a new pier at Värtahamnen.

June 2012: The Municipal Council issued the go-ahead for construction.

January 2013: A contract was signed with Per Aarsleff A/S for the construction of the Värta Pier.

June 2013: The first spade broke ground in building the new Värtahamnen.

Autumn 2014: Start of construction of the new passenger terminal.

Autumn 2015: The pile deck is expected to be completed and the ferries will move to the quay-berths out along the new pier. The work of pile driving and filling in parts of the old harbour basin will begin.

2016: The new Värtahamnen and passenger terminal will be completed.