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  • Writer's pictureTallulah

What is maritime civil engineering?

Maritime civil engineering is a highly specialised field that requires extensive experience and a unique set of skills, with engineers responsible for the planning, designing, construction, and maintenance of structures in or around the water, including ports, harbours, docks, bridges, and inland waterways. In the UK, maritime civil engineering plays a crucial role in facilitating trade, transport, and tourism, as the country has a long history of maritime engineering that dates back to the Roman Empire.


Today, the UK is home to some of the busiest ports and harbours in the world, including the Port of London, the Port of Southampton, and the Port of Liverpool, and the inland waterways of canals, rivers and lakes that extend to a network of more than 2,000 miles. In this blog post we take a closer look at the maritime civil engineering profession, its history, challenges, and the advancements which are shaping the industry today.

What does a maritime civil engineer do?

Maritime civil engineers are highly skilled professionals who undertake several years of education and workplace training, their studies include everything from fluid mechanics and geotechnical engineering through to environmental science and the legal frameworks which govern our waterways. Engineers are able to train via a variety of apprenticeships, college programs and university courses, and once qualified they work alongside professionals within shipping, logistics, tourism, construction and environmental services to design and maintain maritime infrastructure.

The history of maritime civil engineering in the UK

The long history of maritime civil engineering dates back to the Roman Empire, when Romans built ports and harbours as a way to facilitate trade and transport. Moving into the Middle Ages, the engineers developed a maritime infrastructure which included docks and wharves; however, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that maritime civil engineering really became vital to the economy we know today.


With the growth of international trade and the invention of steam powered machines, there was a sudden demand for larger and more sophisticated ports, harbours, canals, and rivers. The maritime engineers of the time responded by creating innovative new designs which used the latest construction techniques. Although we no longer rely upon the network of canals for transportation of goods, UK engineers are still some of the most qualified professionals in the world.


The maritime civil engineering industry today


From the canals built during the industrial revolution to the construction of the first purpose-built container port in the UK in Felixstowe in 1967, the UK has always led the way for maritime civil engineering. The industry today is thriving and here at The Rothen Group, we are proud of our engineers who work on some of the most important projects in the UK.


Although times have changed since the Industrial Revolution, the UK waterways still support the movement of goods and people, whilst providing recreational opportunities and enhancing the country’s natural beauty. The importance of the maritime network in the UK is exciting, and there are a range of important projects and developments on the horizon.

A great example is the government’s commitment to zero-emission transport, which will create a need for the development of electric and hydrogen-powered boats, and maritime civil engineers will be heavily involved in the design of the infrastructure needed to support these modern vessels. In addition, the waterways themselves will need to become more efficient and sustainable, with engineers tasked with creating solutions that use the flow of water to generate electricity as a renewable source of energy.


What challenges does the industry face?


Despite the exciting developments within the industry, there are some challenges. For example, it is important that the infrastructure within the UK waterways is modernised and upgraded to keep up with evolving demands. Many of the rivers and canals in the UK were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and urgent ongoing maintenance is needed to ensure they remain operation.


The government has invested more than £4 billion into the development of these waterways, and through our vast range of services we are proud to be a leading supplier of maritime engineering solutions. We are committed to restoring these waterways to their former glory, with rivers and canals able to support everything from boats to important wildlife.


In addition, the waterways are facing increasing pressure to accommodate larger, increased numbers of vessels whilst also adapting to offer more sustainable solutions. Thankfully, the government is also committed to tackling these challenges and has committed to investing more than £2 billion in maritime infrastructure improvements by 2024, and we are excited to be involved in tackling these challenges.

The Rothen Group – Leading UK maritime civil engineers


Our engineers are committed to improving the efficiency and sustainability of waterways throughout the UK, and we are involved in many important projects. From the installation of new locks and the dredging of canals to creating harbours in key tourism areas that support large, modern vessels, our team is preserving, enhancing, and creating a maritime infrastructure for the future.


We always strive to find innovative solutions which balance the needs of transportation and the economy with the preservation of natural resources and ecosystems, and through our extensive capabilities, dedicated machines, and diverse skillset we are ready to assist with projects of every size. To find out more about our engineering services, contact our team today.


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