History - Boskalis Westminster UK


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In 1982 regional offices were closed centralising the company at James Yard (with responsibility for the UK and Ireland only), retaining only the ‘Green Hut’ site office at Bromborough. Westminster’s own repair yards also became of less use as there were no new dredgers being built, and no conversions or in-house repairs. So, in 1984, Westminster Dredging moved to Dukes Keep, Southampton.

1990’s -  Westminster moves to its present location at Westminster House, Fareham as it was nearer to local motorways and airports. The first major contract procured here was the deepening and maintenance of the channel to Barrow-in-Furness for the Vanguard Submarines. Simultaneously, the Bromborough office moved Eastham to the office now know to have the best view in the Boskalis Westminster group.


In 1963, John Holt Westminster Dredging was formed in Ghana and a year later, re-registered as Westminster Nigeria. The Niger Delta contract involved dredging canals and oil drilling locations, including constructing sand access roads in the intensive mangrove swamps. The first location at Opukushi, in the remote central Delta, had no designated approach. Safe access relied on reference to aerial photographs, and continuous hand-lead soundings, to determine water depth.

Beaver Dredging was also established in Canada, and major works began in the Arabian Gulf and Sweden and by the end of the 1960s, the group Company had established itself as a major organisation internationally.

Throughout the 1970’s a new central office opened at Bentley and regional offices at Bromborough, Southampton, Gravesend and Newcastle were established.  


Most port authorities operated their own dredging plant and proposals made by dredging companies to take over maintenance were repeatedly resisted. However, despite this, the financial benefit could not be ignored and finally long term total maintenance dredging by contract came into vogue.

In 1954 the company integrated with the James Company of Southampton. The Kalis family always had supervisors present on-site with senior management present at muster times or shift changes. So when Bill Kalis (nephew of J.J Kalis) began managing the James Company, he was always present at Southampton berth 101 for reliefs, whatever the hour.

By the Late 1950s the success of the Merseyside works had solidified the company’s reputation for capability and professionalism, and a massive expansion began. The trailer (hopper suction) dredger was introduced and rapidly took over most of our maintenance work in the UK. One of the first major overseas contracts was in Lagos (Victoria Island, Nigeria). The WD Enterprise was custom built for this project, making it possible to navigate safely under the severely restricted Carter Bridge.


J.J. Kalis rejoined and continued to manage Westminster after the Second World War. He was a knowledgeable dredging man, with a powerful personality, and a good judge of character. Although he was a disciplinarian, he was charming and diplomatic to clients, all qualities that continue to run through our company now.

1948 - Westminster Dredging Company is awarded the contract for the large scale reclamation of the River Dee marshes for the construction of John Summers Steel Works. There was substantial engineering interest in this project because of the innovative profile suction dredger  ‘Dee’, which was powered by electric cable from the shore, together with the very high Proctor densification achieved by hydraulic placement. After this many more projects were awarded, mostly involving mechanically breaking Triassic sandstone with Lobnitz rock breakers, marking the end of the Company’s reluctance to undertake rock dredging works.


The Kalis brothers; Kobus (J.J.) Kalis, Bertus (E.D.) Kalis and Wout Kalis were partners of the family owned company Boskalis of Sliedrecht (The Netherlands). Recognising expansion opportunity in the UK they secured a maintenance dredging contract with Lever Bros (now Unilever) for the dredging of Bromborough Docks, Liverpool. The project employed bucket dredgers, barges, tugs and pump ashore units mobilized from Holland, and the project was a triumph.

Initially contracts used bucket dredgers and were mainly confined to the Greater Merseyside area, but they soon expanded along the UK coast.

Merseyside was the perfect base with a fully operational canal to the inland port of Manchester, and the Liverpool and Birkenhead Dock systems, as well as the Sea Channel approaches to the Liverpool Bay.

In London, in 1933, seeking an English name of impressive implication, the Kalis Brothers chose to register their company as ‘Westminster Dredging Company’.