Felixstowe Docks

Year:1886 & 2011

Duration:4 & 3 years


Country: Felixstowe, UK

What did this project achieve?

Build a port on major European shipping routes

Felixstowe is the UK's largest and busiest container port. It handles 42% of all UK container trade.

The port is in an ideal position on the Suffolk coast for ships on the main European lanes between Hamburg and Le Havre. It also has some of the deepest water of any European port that allows it to berth the largest container vessels, sometimes known as 'megaships.'

There's been a dock on the site since 1886 but Felixstowe really took off as a major port in 1967 with the completion of the Landguard container terminal. A second terminal followed in 1986.

Recent works include the construction of Felixstowe South dock in 2011, with work starting on another quay extension in 2014.

Around 30 shipping lines operate from Felixstowe, delivering to 400 ports across the world. The port processes more than 4m containers a year from around 3,000 ships.

The port says it's environmentally friendly as the megaships that Felixstowe handles have a lower carbon footprint than other cargo vessels.

Difference the docks have made

Felixstowe's position on major European trade routes and its direct road and rail links to many distribution centres in the UK mean the port plays a major role in the movement of goods in and out of the country.

As transporting by container ship is relatively inexpensive, Felixstowe can claim to have helped keep the prices of many consumer goods lower for UK consumers.

The port employs around 3,000 workers and contributes to the local economy.

How the docks were built

Constructing Felixstowe South – 730m of new quayside – was one of Suffolk's biggest engineering projects when work started in 2008. It involved around 500 workers.

Put simply, engineers had to build a wall in the water and then fill in behind it with sand. A concrete quay went on top – as well as drainage, rails and container cranes.

The wall was created by lowering 277 interlocking steel tubes vertically into the sea bed. Each tube weighed 50 tonnes and was 2.6m in diameter.

The tubes were 30-40m high depending on how deep the sea was at that point. Engineers used GPS systems to make sure the tubes were positioned correctly.

Divers were also used to check that components were in the right place on the seabed.


There's a constant balance between keeping what's good… and giving us the modern infrastructure so that we can all have the standard of living we're used to.

David Alefs

Project director for Felixstowe South, talking to the BBC in 2010

Fascinating facts

The Port of Felixstowe has its own police force. It's made up of one inspector, 4 sergeants and 18 constables.

The port's force had the last station sergeant in the UK. This rank was phased out in other parts of the country by 1989. The port kept its station sergeant until the last one was promoted to inspector in 2015.

Catholic church charity the Apostleship of the Sea has a permanent chaplaincy at the port. The agency provides pastoral care to seafarers from around the world.

People who made it happen

  • Original railway and port: built by Felixstowe landowner George Tomline
  • Felixstowe South dock: built by Costain

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