16 Jun

Infrastructure Malta completes base structure of new Qrejten Breakwater

Infrastructure Malta completed the base structure of the new 110-metre Qrejten Breakwater, a €4 million investment to shelter the Marsaxlokk fishing port and surrounding coastal areas.

The agency’s contractors used 306 large precast concrete blocks to build this six-metre wide structure, submerged up to 3.5 metres from the surface to the seabed. The builders and a team of divers lowered the hollow blocks on a levelling platform, before filling and binding them together with poured concrete. The entire underwater structure of this long breakwater comprises a mass of 4,952 tonnes of concrete and rebar.

For many years, Marsaxlokk fishers have been calling for a new breakwater to protect the inner harbour area from rough seas, limiting the risks of storm damages to their anchored vessels and other equipment on shore. By absorbing the power of high waves entering this part of the harbour, the breakwater will also limit their impact on the buildings and business operations along the Marsaxlokk promenade, one of Malta’s principal tourism zones.   

Plans for this project were handed over to Infrastructure Malta in 2019, when it was entrusted with the development and maintenance of the country’s maritime infrastructure. Its contractors started works on site in July of the same year. Weather permitting, the agency plans to complete the project by end 2020. Qrejten Point is very exposed to the elements and planned works often need to be rescheduled to ensure workers’ safety and to avoid environmental consequences in surrounding waters.

The project has now entered its next phase with the casting of the breakwater structures above sea level, including a 2.3-metre high wave wall and an outer cope beam. The tip of the breakwater will also feature a seven-metre lighthouse with beacons to signal the structure location to mariners navigating in this area. The entire concrete structure will be surrounded with a sloping rock armour made of 30,285 tonnes of hardstone boulders, like the ones around the Mgarr Harbour’s breakwater in Gozo. Infrastructure Malta’s contractors are quarrying this hardstone from a quarry in Dingli and gradually laying it around the breakwater’s base structure. This armour will attenuate waves entering the harbour, as they hit the breakwater.

Before the rocks are deposited around the breakwater, Infrastructure Malta is testing their strength, porosity and density in specialised laboratories, to ensure they meet the required specifications. Similar tests also ascertain the technical specifications and quality levels of concrete and all other materials used for this project. 

Infrastructure Malta’s maritime team is currently implementing several other major coastal investments in Malta and Gozo. In Marsaxlokk Harbour, the agency is starting a project to upgrade the berthing pontoons in the area known as “Il-Maghluq”. It is also starting preliminary studies to identify the best location and type of structure for another similar protective structure in the Delimara area of the harbour, to shelter this side of Marsaxlokk’s coastline as well.  

The €6 million upgrade of the quays, slipways and pontoons used by fishers in Gozo’s Mgarr Harbour is nearing completion. Another ongoing project includes the development of new landing facilities for ferry passengers in Sliema and Cospicua. Infrastructure Malta is also working on the maintenance and reconstruction of other quays in Marsascala, Mgarr ix-Xini, Balluta Bay and Cirkewwa.

The agency is also finalising plans for several projects to improve the sustainability and efficiency of the Grand Harbour, Malta’s principal port. Earlier this year, it announced the €49.9 million Grand Harbour Clean Air Project, which includes the development of shore power facilities for cruise liners and Ro-Ro vessels whilst they are berthed at port. This investment will cut over 90% of the air pollution that cruise liners and Ro-Ro ships produce when visiting Malta. Other projects in the next few years will see the reconstruction of Sally Port, in Vittoriosa, as well as the upgrading of the Deep Water Quay, Pinto Wharf, Lascaris Wharf and Fuel Wharf (Ras Hanzir).