Contract signed today for first construction phase of £1.5bn container port on the Thames

A Laing O'Rourke joint venture with Dredging International will today sign the contract to build the £400m first phase of the new London Gateway port on the Thames near Thurrock, Essex.

The £1.5bn facility will be the first deep-sea port to be built in the UK in 25 years. Billed by operator DP World as the world's most advanced container port, it will include an integral logistics park that will be the largest in Europe.

The port's 750ha site on the former Shell Haven oil refinery at Stanford-le-Hope on the north bank of the River Thames near Thurrock is just 25 miles from central London. Its proximity to London will enable a reduction of 52m truck miles in the road distance travelled each year by retail goods in the UK - 90% of which arrive in a container.

The five-year contract awarded by DP World to the Laing O'Rourke joint venture includes construction of 1.2km of quay and three berths. Work on site will begin later this year.

The 883,000m2 logistics park will open in second half of 2010, with the first ships arriving in the port in early 2011.

Tony Douglas, chief operating officer of Laing O'Rourke, said: “We are delighted to have won the tender to help deliver such a hugely important injection of confidence into the UK economy.”

DP World's Simon Moore, chief executive of London Gateway, said: “This contract is a major milestone in constructing the port. In an economic climate where the building industry is experiencing a sharp slowdown, this is great news for Essex and the UK in general.

“London Gateway is vitally important for today's UK economy. It will deliver the most efficient and technologically advanced port in the world and much-needed deep-sea capacity for the UK.”