In June, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) announced it had awarded a contract worth £31 million to Fareham based Boskalis Westminster Ltd for work to ready the harbour for the ships.
While the dredging vessel is not due to start its activity until next month, a crane barge, known as Strekker has already begun removing debris from the dredge site which could cause an obstruction.
The carriers will be significantly larger than any ships that currently use Portsmouth Harbour so Boskalis Westminster Ltd will dredge the approach channel, inner harbour area and berth pocket, making them deep and wide enough for the new ships.
In total around 3 million cubic metres of clay, sand and gravel will be removed from the harbour by the trailing suction hopper and backhoe dredgers.
The dredge will meet stringent environmental requirements set out in the marine licence and take into account the local marine and coastal environment, without impacting on the existing operations at HMNB Portsmouth.
DIO project manager Paul Simmonds said:
DIO is working with Boskalis Westminster and the navy to deliver the infrastructure needed to support the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth Carriers. This initial work is important to ensure that dredging activity can start.
Captain Iain Greenlees, Head of Infrastructure at the naval base, said:
The start of the preparatory dredging works marks another important milestone in delivering a naval base that’s ready to support the new aircraft carriers. We are working hard to ensure the naval base is ready to receive the carriers by the end of next year.
The dredge is part of a programme of work by DIO to prepare for the arrival of the carriers, which also includes rebuilding the Middle Slip Jetty.