21 Jan 2021

A digital and sustainable future for dredging services, equipment and vessels

In focus: ✔ Damen Dredging Equipment ✔ Sustainability ✔ Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger (TSHD) ✔ Marine Aggregate Dredger (MAD) ✔ CombiMeter ✔ Cutter Suction Dredger (CSD) ✔ Digitalisation ✔ Online dredging advisory tool ✔ Damen Triton

Ben Littler

Dredging, like many maritime sectors, will grow in relevance in the future. Faced with changes in climate, some countries are already preparing for rising sea levels. Defensive water projects are taking place for dredging in Bangladesh and dikes raised in the Netherlands. In this article we’ll explain the Damen view on sustainability in dredging services, equipment and vessels.

At the same time, populations are rising – and with 40% of the global population living within 100 kilometers of the coast there are clear implications; land will have to be reclaimed.

Well-tested practice of standardisation

Naturally, these people will require food and to trade, so ports, harbours and connected waterways will have to be maintained. As a company deeply rooted in Dutch tradition, a track record in dredging and a keen focus on sustainability, Damen is well positioned to make a difference within this vision of the future.

The shipyards group aims to apply its well-tested practice of standardisation, combined with increasing levels of electrification and digitalisation, to achieve its goals.

Striding & striving for dredging sustainability

Damen Dredging product director Olivier Marcus says the company has made good strides towards more sustainability.

“Take trailing suction hopper dredgers (TSHDs) as an example. These are often found operating in and around ports. So at one level they are contributing towards sustainability – ensuring the flow of goods vital to prosperity on land. However, they also produce emissions in urban areas.

Dredgers and equipment for IMO Tier III

We have approached this situation head-on; our electric dredgers and equipment are equipped for IMO Tier III. They do not use ballast water so there is no danger of them spreading alien species as they travel between ports.”

Sustainability trends of dredging companies

Trends in the industry are also helping to ensure greater sustainability, he says. “What we notice is that there is a growth in countries and ports seeking self-sufficiency in dredging services – acquiring their own equipment and taking care of the maintenance of domestic assets. This means less international distribution of dredging equipment and, therefore, reduced emissions.

“Larger dredging companies, who previously took care of these contracts are specialising increasingly in larger projects such as land reclamation.”

Discover our sustainability reports

Electric Dredging: battery powered MADness

Damen is also busy developing sustainable solutions for the second generation of its Marine Aggregate Dredgers (MAD), hopper dredgers that mine aggregates for construction. “Though these dredgers are working offshore, their operations also include work in urban areas,” explains Olivier.

“When they have collected their payload they come inland to offload, sailing, for example, up the River Thames into London. To reduce emissions during this part of the operation, we are developing hybrid propulsion systems.

This sees the MAD operating on full electric when sailing inland, charging while offloading and then using conventional diesel propulsion at sea.”

Taking a role that goes beyond shipbuilding

Here, Damen’s experience in the construction of electric vessels in other sectors – harbour towage and ferries – means the company can take on a role that goes beyond only that of shipbuilding.

Operating as integrator with full responsibility for project execution, Damen can take care of, for example, the installation of charging infrastructure.

Non-nuclear density and flow measurement

Another nod at sustainability focus is the company’s CombiMeter. This bucks the industry trend of using radioactive meters to measure flow and density and instead uses electromagnetic flow and electrical resistance tomography.

“We developed the CombiMeter for the first MAD. This development helps in enabling the dredger to achieve Eco notation from Lloyd’s Register – the first marine aggregate dredger in the UK to boast such classification.”

Moving forward with stationary dredgers (CSDs)

Stationary dredgers – cutter suctions dredgers (CSDs) – lend themselves to sustainable operations, Olivier says.

“They are already connected to the shore by a discharge pipeline, so it’s easy to imagine this containing an electrical connection. We already see this becoming popular in the mining sectors. Damen has already developed and built fully electric CSDs. It’s an excellent solution for urban areas where it is desirable to minimise emissions and noise.”

New Cutter Suction Dredgers (CSD’s) in the making

Damen is always working on its standard range of CSDs of which over 300 were sold. The aim with these developments is to increase sustainability, uptime and efficiency.

“The new CSDs will, as standard, meet IMO TIER II regulations and can be easily upgraded with an option package to IMO Tier III or EU stage V for use on inland waterways.”

Modular solutions for hydro-power dredging

In addition to urban operations, Dredgers & dredging equipment also have the potential to spearhead sustainable operations in more remote locations.

“Hydropower dams provide an excellent opportunity for clean dredging. For one thing, the ongoing maintenance of the dams is essential – if they silt up they cannot generate so much clean energy, so dredging is continual.

When you consider that the hydropower dams can provide the dredger with its own cleanly generated electricity, the cycle of sustainability is complete. We’ve developed modular DOP dredgers in order to serve this market – our modular dredgers can be transported to the remotest locations and assembled on site.”

Building efficiency with dredging automation

Digitalisation plays a core role in increasing the sustainability of Damen’s dredgers. “By giving our dredgers a greater degree of digital connectivity we can, for example, provide them with a high degree of automation.

The result of this is a higher rate of production, with less fuel consumption, therefore less emissions. Naturally, with automation the operator is also freed up to concentrate on optimising efficiency also.”

Sandy – your digital dredging consultant

Digitalisation relates not only to the dredgers themselves. For instance, a few years ago, Damen launched Sandy – a free online dredging advisory tool that helps contractors find the correct equipment for a dredging project.

With just a few simple mouse clicks, Sandy is able to accurately calculate the perfect tools for individual projects.

Making the difference with data

Perhaps the key digital feature in Damen Dredging Equipment’s arsenal though, is Damen Triton. Named for the Greek God of the sea, Triton is a remote monitoring tool that enables Damen to assist in trouble shooting and maintenance and, besides that, along with its clients, to retrieve data from a dredger during operations.

Optimizing operational efficiency with Triton

With the information of Triton, operational efficiency can be optimised and wear of components identified so that they can be replaced pre-failure, maximising uptime. Triton offers more advantage, states Olivier.

“With remote monitoring we can analyse customers’ requirements and make sure we are supplying them with the equipment that most effectively meets their needs. We can also offer training to operators, working with Damen dredging equipment, all around the world, without the need for travel – yet again reducing our carbon footprint and that of our clients.

This helps distinguish Damen’s offer and represents a great way to ensure our customers are able to get the best from their dredging operations.”