Nansha dredging goes high-tech

Dredger Jun Yang 1. Credit: Royal IHC

The largest dredging vessels in the world are at work in Nansha

The Port of Nansha is thinking big, and big plans require big equipment. It’s therefore no surprise that China’s largest trailer suction hopper dredger (TSHD) is working on the fourth phase of a container terminal in Nansha port.

Scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2020, the fourth phase will enable Nansha International Container Terminals (NICT) to accommodate the world’s largest container ships.
NICT covers several cities in Guangdong province, including Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Dongguan.

The dredging will expand the bottom width of the channel from 243 metres to 385 metres, allowing round-the-clock two-way navigation of mega container ships. Dredging for this fourth phase commenced in July 2018, with the 2016-built trailer suction hopper dredger (TSHD) Jun Yang 1 being one of three dredging vessels assigned to the task. The other vessels are Jun Hai 5 and Jun Hai 6, which also saw action during the decade-long construction of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge that was completed in February 2018.

The three dredgers are part of a fleet operated by CCCC Guangzhou Dredging Co., Ltd, the Guangzhou branch of the state-owned construction and civil engineering group China Communications Construction Co., Ltd (CCCC). Jun Yang 1 was built at Royal IHC’s shipyards in Kinderdijk in the Netherlands. Described as the largest TSHD to date in China and one of the world’s most advanced TSHDs, the 167.5 metre-long vessel was designed with inputs from CCCC Guangzhou.

Touted as a “giant dredger” and a “miracle dredging tool” in the Chinese media, Jun Yang 1 is primarily designed and equipped for dredging medium sand with a grain size of up to 1.5 millimetres. With a single hopper capacity of 21,028 cubic metres, Jun Yang 1 is equipped with two suction tubes with integrated submerged pumps, with which a dredging depth of 40 to 60 metres can be achieved. The starboard tube can be extended so that a dredging depth of even 90 metres can be reached, while Jun Yang 1 is estimated to have a dredging capacity of 20,000 cubic metres per hour.

According to CCCC, the dredged area is mostly based on silt. “Silt is sticky and makes excavation difficult,” a CCCC source told DPC sister publication Ports & Harbors. “To this end, we worked with Royal IHC to design dredgers featuring technological innovations. The Jun Yang 1 is fitted with more than a dozen steel molars that are more effective at excavation.”

The expansion of Nansha port is part of the Chinese government’s Greater Bay Area, which was mentioned in China’s 13th Five Year Plan in 2016 and is widely viewed as an extension of Guangdong’s participation in the Belt and Road initiative (BRI).

Greater Bay Area cities are integral to BRI, which has seen Guangdong province consolidate and upgrade its ports, especially Guangzhou, Nansha, and Shenzhen, to combine its traditional advantage as a trade centre with the opportunities presented by the initiative. Nansha is set to play a crucial role in the Greater Bay Area and BRI, with the Nansha Pilot Free Trade Zone facilitating transhipments. Nansha processed 15.57 million teu of containers in 2018, accounting for almost 71% of Guangzhou’s entire throughput.

At Marine Money’s Singapore Offshore Finance Forum in April, Ince & Co partner Rosita Lau said that the Greater Bay Area strategy particularises the development of the region in the context of the BRI.

Lau said: “This initiative is even more valuable and relevant than BRI, because BRI is a 30-year initiative and there are 25 years to go before we can see what the result is, but Greater Bay Area is just an 18-year initiative. We will see the results very soon.”