Works are underway to repair the historic 110-year-old Grand Harbour breakwater and the steel bridge linking one of its arms to Valletta.

Piloted by state agency Infrastructure Malta, the €1 million project includes the replacement of large blocks of the breakwater’s deck which have been dislodged by huge waves over the years.

The structure is made up of separate arms – one jutting out from Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara which stretches for 120 metres into the sea and a second arm from the opposite side but further out in the port which stretches from Fort St Elmo. The latter part which is 370 metres long, is linked to the shore by means of a steel bridge, which is also undergoing repairs.

Prior to the start of works, divers managed to retrieve some of the coping stones which had fallen into the sea and were still in good condition. Though these parts will be reused, the missing parts are being replaced by limestone blocks from a quarry in Trani, in the Puglia region of Italy. The project includes cleansing of the masonry from tar stains and other deposits which accumulated over the years.

(Video: Infrastructure Malta)

Works are also underway to repair the steel bridge which was only installed eight years ago as part of a project to reconnect the Valletta side of the breakwater to the shore. The original bridge had been destroyed during World War II by Italian e-boats in July 1941.

The new bridge which had cost €2.8 million and was manufactured in Spain and  has been dogged by structural frailties particularly the wooden decking.

Maintenance works comprise repairs to the steel structure and the damaged sections of the deck, new handrails and electrical circuits with an improved lighting system.

Weather permitting, the project is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.    

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

The Grand Harbour breakwater was constructed over a period of seven years between 1903 and 1910 and was a project of crucial economic importance due to Malta’s role as a naval base.

Its foundation stone, on the Kalkara side, which is still visible had been laid by King Edward VII on April 20, 1903 - the first British reigning sovereign to visit the island.  From an engineering perspective the project was meant to shelter the Grand Harbour from the north easterly winds and its overall cost was of £1 million. Around 500 workers were engaged in its construction, of whom a significant number were from Sicily.

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