2014 – 2015 Was Sent To Challenge Us, starting with a 1.2 km silt curtain for Turkmenistan…

It’s been an interesting year here at Aquatic Engineering. We undertook both our longest individual silt curtain design and fabrication, and also our deepest. Both of these were abroad and each presented considerable challenges in their execution!

Back in 2014 we received an email from Turkey, requiring 1.2km of silt containment curtain for the construction of the new port of Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea – in Turkmenistan. My first reactions were ‘where on earth is Turkmenistan?’ and 1.2 km – can we do it?!

The $ 2 billion construction started on the Port in late 2013 and is scheduled to finish in 2016. The project involves the construction of the ferry, cargo and passenger terminals covering 1.2million m2. Turkmenbashi Port has great geopolitical importance in Eurasia, being on the trade route Europe-Caucasus-Asia. It is able to accommodate vessels throughout the year, with 24/7 loading and unloading facilities.


Our 1.2 km silt curtain runs across the bay, protecting the marine environment from the construction works at the port

Having read up on my geography and identified Turkmenistan, the next challenge was to provide a ‘supplied and delivered’ price. With no direct sea port it would have to go by road and that meant either sending an artic through Iran or Russia and then Kazakhstan – neither of which appealed! But after a day in the office we eventually found a Turkish company who would collect the finished floating silt curtain from our logistics center in Southampton and take it through Europe, down into Turkey and to the Azerbaijan port of Baku. From here it would cross the Caspian Sea to Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan. All we had to do was fabricate the beast, load it onto an artic at our factory in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, cross the Solent and drive to Southampton, unload it and then reload it on to a Romanian articulated lorry. We could then hopefully say goodbye!

The construction of the silt curtain:

I have found over many years of experience that the weakest link in any curtain is at the joint of each panel. It doesn’t matter how strongly we fabricate each silt curtain panel, it is the join which will invariably be the failing of any silt curtain installation. Huge energies can be exerted on an installed curtain, just like a sail on a ship on a windy day, imagine a sail made in two halves and joined by some connection system, the connection may not fail but invariably the attachment of the connection to the sail would. It is the same with silt or turbidity curtains, which, by the way, are one and the same thing. They are called everything from silt screens to floating turbidity curtains and everything in between! It is because of this inherent weakness in a silt curtain made of many connected panels that we endeavour to fabricate ours in one piece, or with as few connections as possible. Was it possible and practical to fabricate a 1.2km silt curtain in one piece? Well we found that it certainly was possible, however to ease loading and unloading both in the UK and on site in Turkmenbashi, we fabricated it in two sections of 600m each. By working an extra shift or two we managed to complete it in just 4 days and have it loaded ready for its Solent crossing.


1.2 km of silt curtain ready for the road journey to Turkmenistan

Speedy Delivery wins the day…

It was quite an achievement. From the initial contact with the client’s representative, through fabrication and an 11 day journey across Europe, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea to final deployment, was less than 20 days. I believe it was our ability to respond quickly to the clients’ needs, at a price we were both happy with, that secured this project for us against stiff competition from the USA, Europe and the Far East.

Well that covers our longest silt curtain. We do extreme length and we do extreme depth. Our deepest silt curtain will be the subject of this blog in the very near future.

Glyn Onione – Senior Technical Consultant at Aquatic Engineering

Have a question about silt curtains? Aquatic Engineering have the answers. Email caroline@aquaticengineering.co.uk or phone us on 01983 616668