The UK’s marine aggregate industry provides around 13 million tonnes of sand and gravel each year for construction uses in England and Wales and a further 6 - 7 million tonnes for similar uses by our European neighbours. Its origins and characteristics are generally identical to high-quality sand and gravel from land quarries and the potential range of end-uses are no different.
Marine aggregates represent an essential part of the ready mix concrete and concrete product supply chain, contributing over 13% of all the concrete aggregates used in Great Britain. The ready-mix concrete and concrete product sectors collectively employ over 30,000 staff, and generate an annual turnover of £4,281 million and a GVA of £1,685 million (2005 figures from the Office of National Statistics, Annual Business Inquiry). Consequently, a significant part of these sectors, and their associated employment, infrastructure and turnover are entirely dependent upon the continued supply of marine aggregate materials.
While most is used in the manufacture of concrete, marine aggregate is also a key ingredient in various concrete products, including building blocks, pipes and paving, for general building purposes, for drainage and fill, and also in some industrial applications. The quality of marine aggregate is assured by a series of European standards, the most significant of which is BS EN 12620 concerning the use of aggregates for concrete.
The greatest construction demand is for sand and for the finer grades of gravel. Any oversize gravel is usually crushed before being re-screened. Projects in which marine aggregate has played a key role include Canary Wharf, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the Thames Barrier, the Bluewater shopping complex, the Cardiff Bay Barrage, No1 Court Wimbledon, the Second Severn Crossing, Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and the Paradise regeneration project in Liverpool.
More recently, marine aggregates have been used in support of the 2012 London Olympic site, Heathrow Terminal 5 and Crossrail.
Information sheets providing technical information on the use of marine aggregates in concrete and the use of marine sand in building are available here:
A new portal has been established www.marineaggregates.info. This provides a comprehensive source of information on the use of marine aggregate in construction, provides technical information and links to sources of detailed information to assist in specifying and use of marine aggregate. The Marine Aggregate Information Centre is managed on behalf of The Crown Estate and supported by the Marine Aggregate Industry.