• Smart Dredging

    2016 February 24 :

    • Olivier Vantomme, General Director of Mordraga LLC, Russian subsidiary of the international dredging group DEME, tells IAA PortNews about the Group’s latest projects, its role in the global dredging market and in Russia.   


      - Mr. Vantomme, what are the major projects currently undertaken by DEME Group in the world and in Russia?


      – We have several projects in Asia with two very big ones in Singapore. 

      The first project is the construction of the Tuas Terminal Phase 1. It is a joint venture with Daelim Industrial of South Korea for the account of Singapor’s Marine and Ports Authority (MPA). The project entails the construction from scratch of an entire logistics hub. It is a massive 5-year project and scheduled for completion in 2021. 

      And the other one is the Jurong Island Westward Extension which is just next to it. The project comprises the reclamation of approximately 38,000,000 m3 of new land at Singapore’s petrochemical hub, Jurong Island, for the account of Singapore’s largest industrial landlord JTC. The project is proceeding on schedule for completion in 2018. We also have projects going on in other countries and are very active in India for instance, but the mentioned projects in Singapore are the highlights at the moment. 

      In the Americas we are dredging again for the Panama Canal Authority. We did the widening and deepening of the Panama Canal at the pacific side between 2009 and 2012 and now we are undertaking this additional work there. The planned maintenance and deepening dredging works are meant to facilitate the increasing shipping traffic and the arrival of larger ships (Post-Panamax type) through the connecting canal. The existing entrance southbound of the Americas Bridge will be broadened over a distance of 7 km by 37 meters on both sides, making the total width 300 m.


      In Africa, we completed our part of the Suez Canal widening and deepening last year. A big inauguration ceremony was held last summer, at which a.o. Dmitry Medvedev was present. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) commissioned DEME for another project, where DEME is dredging a side channel of 9.5 km long, 250 m wide and 18.5 m deep providing access to the eastern part of Port Said's port. Both ‘Congo River’ and ‘Nile River’ are executing the deepening dredging works. Port Said is one of Egypt's most important ports on the Mediterranean. Thanks to the new eastern side canal, ships sailing to and from Port Said will no longer interfere with maritime convoys of the nearby Suez Canal. 

      One of the most spectacular DEME projects that were awarded recently are actually situated on Réunion Island (La Réunion) in the Indian Ocean. The projects involve the extension of Port Est and two contracts for the construction of the ‘Nouvelle Route du Littoral’, a 13 km coastal road built offshore. The first two contracts were successfully completed in 2015. In the first quarter of 2016, DEME will start with the execution of the third one, namely the contract for dredging, gravel bed installation and backfilling works for the 48 gravity base foundations of the 5.4 km maritime viaduct.  

      In the Middle East we have been very active with huge projects over the last decade. The Pearl of the Gulf is one of them that can be easily spotted on Google maps. 


      Another important project in the region that started in 2015 is for the ‘La Mer’ real estate development, owned by Dubai-based Meraas Development. This new, mixed-use reclaimed area of 2.9 million m2 will comprise prestigious residential, commercial and leisure areas.

      In Belgium, we have, amongst others, a long-term maintenance dredging contract for the River Scheldt which passes through Antwerp, and we are executing many offshore wind farm projects including construction and installation of the foundations and turbines. 

      - In 2014 you won the contract for dredging in the Russian Arctic port of Sabetta. Tell about this project, please.

      - Historically our company was already active in Imperial Russia before returning in 1993 to the Russian Federation. Especially since 2000 we have been very busy, executing over 15 projects here since then and having covered quite a lot of the territory - in the Baltic, Arctic, Black Sea area and even in the Far East.  

      Of course, the Sabetta project is our highlight in Russia at the moment. It is a 4-year contract which started in 2014 and which has been progressing very well. I understand it is a strategically important project for Russia’s LNG export. The Russian Ministry of Transport and Port infrastructure has, through the main contractor USK MOST, awarded a contract to DEME for dredging works comprising the sea channel in the Ob bay, the access channel and the water area of a new port on the Yamal peninsula. This port must serve hyper-modern, icebreaking LNG ships.

      In 2015, we successfully completed construction of the 50 km long sea channel in the Ob bay with a width of 205 m and a water depth of 15.1 m BS-77. This year we have to continue working and complete the access channel and the water area of Sabetta port. Our plans for 2017 are to widen the sea and access channels for further development of the Yamal LNG project.

      Find more details about dredging activity of Mordraga LLC in Sabetta in annual issue “Port Service’.  

      - How do you ensure the environmental protection when implementing your projects?


      - We are used to working in environmentally sensitive areas all over the world. We put to practice the experience we’ve gained throughout the years in strict environmental locations. When we start a project, we draft a comprehensive Environmental Management Plan covering all the different aspects. We use the latest technologies and methods we developed under previous projects and adapt these to the local situation. In the case of Sabetta, we have what we call an Environmental Captain. This is an independent expert who made an elaborate study and assessments of the environmental impact in Sabetta. His findings were then implemented. We continuously strive for improvement of our practices. Our environmental footprint, our impact should be as small possible. 

      - What do you see as the main trends in the development of the dredging technology? 

      - We see that projects get larger, more complex and multidisciplinary.  This means that we have to often adapt our equipment and sometimes even construct specific equipment for specific projects. Also, vessels get bigger and bigger, they have to be more efficient and dredge more precisely. Sailing distances to source sand for reclamation purposes also tend to increase, so one needs larger vessels that can dredge deeper. Under multi-disciplinary projects we have to combine different things like dredging, reclamation, quay wall construction (a good example was our project at London Gateway). We are diversified and have a wide range of capacities. This is why we can take on these complex projects that include more than just dredging, but also breakwater and quay wall construction, shore protection, soil improvement, etc. In certain areas of the world where good reclamation material is scarce more use has to be made of soft soils that are dredged and then improved with relevant soil improvement techniques. Our TTP 1 project in Singapore is a good example of this.  

      - What kind of fleet do you have at the moment? Do you have any plans to update it?

      - We have almost 100 main production vessels of different types (Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers, Cutter Suction Dredgers, Backhoe Dredgers, Water injection Dredgers, Inland/River dredgers, Offshore jack-up vessels & platforms, Fall Pipe Vessels, Cable installation & multi-purpose vessels, Heavy Lifting Equipment,...) and an even larger number of support vessels (tugboats, multicast, survey vessels, crew vessels, pontoons,...) spread all around the world. 

      We completed a very big shipbuilding campaign in 2013 and in 2015 DEME embarked on another comprehensive fleet expansion programme designed to ensure that the company is future-ready for increasingly stringent emissions regulations and so that it continues to be at the forefront of the industry when it comes to operational excellence and limiting the impact of its activities on the environment. This for instance is the purpose of the 3 dual fuel trailing suction hopper dredgers we are building (delivery 2x2017 en 1x2018). By using LNG as a fuel, carbon emissions are cut by a quarter for the same performance level, particulate matter has a dramatic reduction of 80% and SOx emissions are almost zero.  Other vessels being built are a jack-up platform ‘Apollo’ (of which the keel laying ceremony took place in December 2015 in Croatia - delivery 2017), a multi-purpose cable-laying vessel ‘Living Stone’ (the keel laying ceremony took place in December 2015 in Bilbao, Spain; delivery 2017) and a 4.000 ton heavy-lift vessel ‘Rambiz 4000’ (delivery 2017). This new heavy-lift vessel is an improvement of the vessel we have now –‘Rambiz 3000’. 

      We continuously build new vessels to keep our fleet young. Each time we have to be innovative to stay at the forefront of the industry and to compete with other companies. Sometimes we use new ideas for specific projects. We have an important New Building Department at DEME in order to  design our vessels in-house and then have them built at shipyards.  

      - What are the development plans of the company in the world and in Russia?  

      - In the world, we increase our role as a Global Solutions Provider. We try to offer a total package to our clients which means being able to deal with different disciplines not just dredging. We call that ‘Dredging Plus’ solutions which are environmental activities as well as

      marine & offshore construction works. Also, in contrast to our competitors, we have many concessions: for offshore wind farms, tidal farms, marine aggregates and deep-sea mining. In Belgium, DEME was a pioneer and driving force behind the offshore wind industry. That is something that also differentiates us from our competitors.  

      As we look at the global challenges like climate change with CO2 emissions, rising sea level or increasing world population we try to find answers. As a solution to the climate change we invest in green energy, not just wind but also tidal and wave. We develop offshore wind farms, we invest in them, also as owners. When it comes to the rising sea level, we build coastal defences and raise land. We also reclaim land as a solution to the increasing world population. One of our answers to the scarcity of strategic raw materials is deep sea mining. 

      Thanks to our multi-disciplinary capacities we can offer a wide range of solutions to our clients on complex projects. It is definitely one of our strengths. For instance, thanks to our environmental know-how we executed the very important soil remediation for the London Olympics site. We have also been carrying out environmental projects in Sweden for a long time and are active in Norway as well. This expertise of ours could definitely be interesting for the Russian market as well. 

      With respect to Russia, despite the challenging economic situation, we have just had our most active year in Russia yet, and we continue to expand, to recruit Russian engineers, surveyors, staff and so on. We intensify collaboration with Russian companies. For instance we signed a long term cooperation agreement with the Makarov University in June to exchange knowledge and we had cadet trainees onboard of our vessels in Sabetta this year, 5 cadets and one surveyor. In December we had another event at the Makarov University. We presented our company and also did a lecture on dredging techniques to hydro-techniсal engineers, potential cadets, surveyors and engineers who might follow the traineeship on the Sabetta project. We believe the Russian market will keep developing, therefore we invest and have our offices here. Our message is: we are here to stay.