The New Genoa Breakwater and the Genoa Aquarium Join Forces to Protect the Sea

Webuild and the PerGenova Breakwater Consortium are committed to safeguarding marine fauna in the construction areas.

Building a major structure while protecting the environment. Not on land, but in the open sea. This is the challenge within the challenge, the construction site within the open sea off the coast of Genoa, where the construction of the New Breakwater is underway. Here, on seabeds ranging from 30 to 50 meters deep, a highly innovative project has been initiated, with the PerGenova Breakwater consortium led by the Webuild Group, tasked with constructing the structure, and the Genoa Aquarium, a city institution known worldwide, working side by side.

The project involves securing the gorgonians, coral-like animals living on the seabeds or near the old breakwater being dismantled. These animals are essential for the sea’s balance and, through a series of interventions spread over time, will gradually be moved inside the Aquarium and maintained in their natural conditions before being returned to the sea once the construction is completed.

“In this project,” comments engineer Serena Latini, environmental officer of PerGenova Breakwater, “sustainability is very important, and that’s why we are adopting all the necessary procedures to protect the ecosystem.”

Since the beginning of the work, surveys of the seabed have been conducted, and the positions where the specimens to be transported were and still are located have been identified. From here, underwater experts began collecting the first gorgonians, which are now housed in the aquarium.

“Thanks to the agreement signed with the Aquarium,” continues engineer Latini, “in January 2024, we were able to accommodate the first specimens that are now in a specific area and are monitored daily.”

Inside the Genoa Aquarium, two floors below the sea

The curatorial areas of the Genoa Aquarium are two floors below sea level. The impression is that of being in the engine room of a large ship, yet this is where the animals coming from the sea are protected and cared for. Three huge tanks house loggerhead sea turtles, another hosts an octopus, and yet another tropical fish.

“This is the operational part,” explains Laura Castellano, curator of the Mediterranean sector of the Genoa Aquarium, “the beating heart of the Aquarium because every animal that arrives at the aquarium or needs care is hosted in these tanks that you can see here.”

Within this area, the gorgonians arriving from the Genoa breakwater are now protected and monitored, essential animals for the balance of the marine environment that live at depths ranging from 20 to 300 meters.

“Last July,” continues Laura Castellano, “I was contacted by the company in charge of environmental monitoring for the construction of the breakwater because some species considered important were found, and therefore it was requested that these species be collected, kept in a controlled environment, and then relocated after the construction of the breakwater back into their, again, their environment.”

The purpose of the project is precisely the protection of marine biodiversity and the recovery of these species before they can be returned to the sea, once the work is completed.

The new Genoa Breakwater, the mega-project for the Ligurian capital

Work continues 400 meters away from the shore with over 1,17 million tons of gravel already poured into the sea. This is where the New Genoa Breakwater will rise, replacing the old one and allowing large ships, up to 400 meters long, to reach the Ligurian port.

A complex and innovative project in whose construction about 1,000 people will be involved with the aim of greatly expanding the naval “reception” capabilities of the port. The new breakwater will indeed have a length of 4,200 meters, creating a turning basin for ships with a diameter of 800 meters. This explains the different maneuverability ensured by an infrastructure that transforms the Genoa port into one of the most modern and competitive in Europe.

The GenovaBreakwater Consortium, led by the Webuild Group, is indeed working to ensure that the structure has a decisive impact on urban development on one hand and respects the environmental parameters set by the project on the other. Among these, in addition to initiatives to safeguard marine flora and fauna, there are also a series of sophisticated engineering innovations that include, for example, the almost complete reuse of materials from the old breakwater, significantly minimizing environmental impacts during construction. This is the construction site that lives and moves amidst the sea, a unique habitat to protect and preserve.