A Dutch perspective

Jeroen Berg, Royal IHC. Credit: Royal IHC

Jeroen van den Berg, a commercial business analyst at Royal IHC, gives his opinion on the changing dredging landscape

I was born in the dredging village of Sliedrecht, a town in the Netherlands, known for its strong connections with the industry. It seemed inevitable that I would end up working in the dredging industry. My great-grandfather tarred boats on the slipway in Sliedrecht in the early 20th century, and my own career began in Kinderdijk in May 2008 at Royal IHC’s Parts and Services department.

When considering which pioneering projects best showcase dredging’s possibilities, a few come to mind. Before 2008, the impressive Palm Islands in Dubai were constructed, and in the following years, other big projects were executed. Reclamation projects such as Maasvlakte 2, the third set of locks for the Panama Canal, and the expansion of the Suez Canal are worthy of mention. Not to forget further expansions in Singapore, such as the Finger projects at Tuas Port.

Hong Kong has become more active with examples, such as its Three-Runway System at its international airport, with 133 million m3 of sediment moved and the Colombo Port City project in Sri Lanka involving 65 million m3 of sediment, providing good insight into what could come.

It is almost 40 years ago – more precisely 27 December 1981 – when China Communications Construction Company Shanghai Dredging Co (CCCC SDC) became the first company to enter the international market with a self-propelled hopper dredger. Which projects will be added to this list of groundbreaking projects in the coming decade? Will it be the Kau Yi Chau artificial islands in Hong Kong, Turkey’s Istanbul Canal, or closer to home in the Netherlands, moving Schiphol airport offshore?

Right now, we are cementing new ways of dredging into our standard practice, and these will stand the test of time well. ‘Building with nature’ is an especially noteworthy concept. Examples of projects that work with nature, and that were originally engineered for the Netherlands, are now making their way to different countries: the Marker Wadden, completed in 2016, became the first polder in Singapore, and a sand engine is being developed in the United Kingdom.

Shipbuilding has changed considerably in the past decades. Many companies that were active around 10 years ago are no longer present in the shipbuilding industry. Research shows that between 1970 and 2010, around 200 shipyards were building custom dredgers. However, in the last 10 years, around only 25 shipyards remain active in this market sector. Many shipyards went bankrupt or stepped out of the dredger-building business.

Those that continue to build dredgers are mainly based in Europe (mostly in the Netherlands) or China. Dredger building in other locations is mainly driven by governmental policies regarding local content.

In July 2008, the world’s largest trailing suction hopper dredgers (TSHD) entered the market – Jan De Nul’s 46,000 m3 Cristóbal Colón and its sister Leiv Eiriksson are among the largest TSHDs delivered in May 2010.

The market will remain volatile, but to this day the Dutch dredging sector has maintained a strong global competitive position and I am very proud to be part of it.