Johannes Karvonen, Aquamec’s marketing manager strongly feels that inland and coastal dredging are generally overlooked, despite being a significant part of the industry. He believes that too much emphasis is placed on big headline projects, while problem-solving and vital maintenance of inland waterways goes unsung.
“Search on Google for dredging and what appears are pictures of huge cutter suction dredgers and trailing suction hopper dredgers doing big projects, mainly offshore or coastal,” he said, adding, “In deeper waters there are bigger vessels deployed by fewer players but that’s only part of the industry picture.”
“That’s not Watermaster’s world; we focus on river, coastal and inland dredging. With inland waterways, the companies are not as big, the field of companies is more diversified – dredging, engineering, and municipalities. The work is not usually done by ‘conventional’ operators because their vessels are not as suited to working conditions.
“Many inland water bodies are often too shallow or narrow; anchors and wire-cables may require more space than available; and urban debris such as plastic bags and bottles can also cause problems. Accessibility can be another barrier as they would have to disassemble the vessel or machinery, transport it by road to the work area, then reassemble it, and crane it into the water. All of which adds to time and costs,” he points out.
These are probably the reasons why the majority of shallow water dredging is done with excavators (long-reach excavators, barge-mounted excavators, and floating excavators). “If you google river and inland dredging, you’ll mainly see people using excavators from the banks or on pontoons. People use the machinery they have to hand and are used to using. Anyone who owns an excavator can have a go but the equipment is not necessarily the most appropriate for the job, or it may not be able to do more than one thing,” he suggested.
According to Karvonen there is another option. “Right now, a lot of work in inland waters is done with equipment that is not the optimum – good for some applications but not for others. Most machinery used is not made for this specific purpose. It’s better to work with purpose-built multifunctional machinery such as ours, used in the correct way – the safe and efficient way,” he added.
“The reason for dredging in inland waters may be to ensure the navigability of a waterway, but the work is more often done for environmental reasons: to prevent floods, to clean urban canals, to remove polluted sediments and so on. These projects usually include non-dredging work as well, such as removal of trash and invasive vegetation, by raking, or the strengthening of the shorelines by pile driving.”
“Using smaller, fully-certified field-tested dredgers such as ours means the vessel is transportable on the back of a lorry and can ‘walk’ itself into the water,” he said. “Launching is quick and economical – no extra machinery is needed.
He argued, “The problem with focusing on big companies, big vessels, and big projects, is that clients do not realise all the options available to them. Projects are left undone because they appear too expensive, or there’s a lack of knowledge. If they don’t know what’s possible, their choices are constrained. The focus on ‘big’ dredging means less awareness that amphibious multipurpose dredgers can do certain jobs better than excavators or large dredgers.
“Working with smaller, purpose-built machines such as Watermaster allows shallower waterways to be kept clear and problem free. This may not make headlines, but if it’s not done, the problems from flooding or siltation do make the news – for the wrong reasons. It’s not as glamorous but is just as important as big projects,” Karvonen concluded.