Subsea experts diversify into coastal protection

Great Yarmouth-based Subsea Protection Systems (SPS) has adapted its techniques and technologies evo

Great Yarmouth-based Subsea Protection Systems (SPS) has adapted its techniques and technologies evolved to protect subsea structures, cables and pipelines over the last 20 years to protect homes from the sea in its first coastal defence scheme. SPS managing director Fred Rogers (right) with Andrew Griffin, SPS development manager, who led the project. - Credit: Archant

A company with 20 years’ experience protecting assets under the sea has adapted its expertise and is in talks about flood defence projects across the UK as well as coastal protection work.

Subsea Protection Systems (SPS) – which designs and produces concrete and rock solutions to protect seabed structures, pipelines and cables in the oil and gas and offshore wind sectors – is currently delaying the speed of erosion on the vulnerable stretch of the coast at Scratby with a £600,000 scheme to protect 135 homes from the seas by laying 1,300 gabions along 877m of beach.

SPS managing director Fred Rogers said dwindling offshore projects had prompted the Yarmouth-based company – which also has permanent manufacturing bases in Dundee, Qatar and Mexico - to look at new markets to plug the gap.

Techniques and solutions to erosion on worldwide offshore projects had been adapted to meet the specifications of the scheme designed by Great Yarmouth Borough Council, he said.

“We are currently researching and developing new products to push forward with coastal and flood protection work.

“This is a perfect way to adapt what we do for a different market. It is all about diversification, innovation and exploring new ways to use proven expertise in a different setting. This is an exciting and challenging area to be involved in and something we plan to develop.”

The company – which helped to pioneer the use of concrete flexi-mats in the North Sea in the 1990s to become one of the world’s leading suppliers - had been considering coastal protection work and flood defence projects for some time, he said.

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The 25-week project at Scratby was the company’s first coastal protection scheme, won at a competitive tender, and is being managed from its Yarmouth office.

SPS is currently in talks in Scotland and with authorities across the UK about involvement in flood defence and other coastal protection schemes, he said.

At Scratby, the gabions - filled with recycled concrete and reject stone, all sourced in Norfolk - are being laid in three layers to stand three-metres high for 877m at the toe of a sandy cliff to slow the rate of erosion.

They will protect the low dunes, the natural buffer from lapping waves and the scheme is designed to give the community time to adjust to coastal change.

SPS is working with partners, Cromer-based civil engineers Mackinnon Construction, which is carrying out the work designed to protect 35 homes nearest to the cliff edge over a 25-year period and another 100 homes further back at risk for 100 years.

Teams of up to 10 workers, using two excavators and two dump trucks, are laying the three tiers of gabions, containing 1,760 cubic metres of crushed recycled concrete in the bottom tier and 2,200 cubic metres of reject stone in the top two tiers.

The current 1.4km rock berm is 19 years into a 50-year life span. The new project extends from the berm at Little Scratby Crescent, northwards across Scratby Beach to reach Newport.

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis praised SPS’ innovation at a difficult time in the offshore industry.

“SPS is a fantastic example of a Great Yarmouth business that has a long and proven track of working in the offshore industry, and has had the foresight to look ahead and find a way to break into fresh markets by being innovative and shaping its products and skills to build different work streams.”