Marine Aggregates

Catherine Quinn



The Crown Estate has recently published an assessment of the marine aggregate industry in the UK which is the largest in the World – “Marine Aggregates Capability and Portfolio 2016”. This industry is important to the UK economy as onshore aggregate supplies are becoming increasingly constrained and now meets around 25% of the demand in England and Wales.


A total of 1.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel was extracted from the Thames Estuary and neighbouring sea bed in the calendar year 2015. By contrast, London used three times as much, at 4.6 million tonnes, of marine aggregate in the year, which is only in second place in the UK to the South East at 6.2 million tonnes. 


The report has a graphical assessment of the industry in the Thames Estuary region.


The marine sand and gravel are being used for some key projects in the region. These include:

  • Transport Infrastructure such as Canary Wharf underground station, and London City Airport;
  • Commercial development and regeneration in Canary Wharf and Rochester;
  • Coastal and Flood defences – the Thames Barrier, and
  • Energy and Utilities – London Array Wind Farm


The Crown Estate owns the UK’s seabed and has contracted TEP member, Royal HaskoningDHV, as managing agents offshore. It has a commitment to being a responsible landlord, which includes minimising the impact that marine aggregate dredging has on the natural environment, helping local communities and preserving archaeological finds. One initiative during 2016 was to focus on project level delivery of Sandscaping with Royal HaskoningDHV and other partners.


The report states that Sandscaping is inherently green infrastructure. “It makes use of natural mineral resources and coastal processes and can be designed to enhance the ecological value of an area by creating habitat.” PLA commented that the sandbank network in the Thames Estuary means there is already a natural equivalent in place. It has potential use eastwards from Southend.



PDF copies of the report are available on The Crown Estate website:


Further information about marine aggregates can also be found on the Marine Aggregates information Centre website: