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Marine aggregates

At a time when land-based quarrying is under increasing environmental pressure, marine aggregates are of growing importance.

Some 21 per cent of the sand and gravel requirements of England and Wales now come from the sea. Marine sand and gravel also plays an increasingly important role in tackling the challenges of climate change by supporting large scale beach nourishment projects. The marine aggregates industry also contributes to our balance of payments through exports to the near continent and dredging is undertaken by a fleet of largely British owned and crewed ships working 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year.

Nature Picture Licensed dredging areas typically lie six miles offshore and in water more than 20 metres deep, so avoiding any possibility of coastal erosion. Of some 1344 square kilometres of seabed licensed for marine aggregate extraction in 2007, only 134.7 square kilometres was actually dredged, equivalent to just 0.016% of the UK continental shelf area.

Over 7 million tonnes of marine sand and gravel are delivered to wharves along the Thames river each year, requiring on average 4 cargoes of 5,000 tonnes to be landed each day. The contribution of marine aggregate supplies in this region is equivalent to 1000 lorry loads of sand and gravel being delivered by sea, close to the point of demand, 365 days a year.

Quarry PictureAs a responsible operator, the industry recognizes the potential for its operations to impact upon the marine environment and are committed to minimizing and mitigating such effects. The industry also shares the marine environment with a wide range of other users including fishing, shipping, energy and recreation, and has a responsibility to operate with due regard to their needs. A marine stewardship approach is key, and operators believe this challenge should be approached as a partnership with all the other parties involved and have instigated a range of voluntary initiatives designed to improve the performance of the sector by minimizing the significance of its operations to both stakeholders and the environment.

The interests of the MPA's marine aggregate producers are represented by a constituent body of MPA, the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA). Its website is available at

Key Technical Publications:    
Marine Aggregates at a Glance Download PDF PDF downloadhelp
Aggregates from the Sea Download PDF PDF downloadhelp
Marine Aggregates in Concrete Download PDF PDF downloadhelp
Marine Sands in Mortars and Screeds
Download PDF PDF downloadhelp

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Please note this website is maintained to provide information and guidance on UK issues, products and applications of those products.


Just 0.016 per cent of the UK continental shelf was dredged in 2007

For more information on marine aggregates, please contact Mark Russell ( 020 7963 8000 or visit the BMAPA website at

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