Respecting nature’s needs with sustainable dredging

Ines Nastali, DPC Editor

At this year’s World Dredging Congress and Exhibition (WODCON), in Shanghai in April, there were repeated calls for more sustainable dredging practices.

A number of presenters agreed that China has only recently started implementing ecological methods of dredging, and previously, has largely worked in an unsustainable way that sometimes destroyed coastlines.

While some delegates argued that the dredging industry did not have the technological and financial means to work environmentally friendly 30 years ago, others pointed out that there are companies that will shy away from any increased costs that conservation efforts may require. The latter was largely the case in the shipping industry, which rings very true in my experience.

However, the global focus on sustainability is increasing the costs of ignoring nature, both financially and reputationally. Correcting previous errors can prove extremely expensive and social media is well-known to vilify companies that cause pollution or harm.

It is also worth remembering that sustainable projects can more than pay for themselves in the long term. Jeroen van den Berg, commercial business analyst at Royal IHC highlighted one such example in his response to May’s question of the month. “The sand engine project in the Netherlands has established best practice for the industry,” he said, speaking of the 2011 project by Van Oord and Boskalis that placed 21.5 million m3 of sand in the shape of a hook extending the coast near Ter Heijde to create a sand engine.

“The sand was meant to spread along the provincial coastline by the natural motion of wind, waves, and currents. Years thereafter, it appears that the sand engine does what it was constructed for. Later, similar initiatives were announced in other parts of the world.”

This success I think is a case in point that proven sustainable dredging and coastal techniques must feature more prominently on our agenda.

I would like readers to get in touch and share their experiences of related initiatives, such as creating more wetlands for carbon capture and animal habitats and installing bubble curtains to decrease noise pollution and the movement of pollutants from dredging operations.