The Dredging Industry
The many different reasons for dredging illustrate the variety of the portfolio of activities encompassed by dredging. The objectives and requirements can vary widely, as determined by the organisation wishing the dredging to be undertaken. For navigational dredging this organisation is usually a port or harbour authority or a government department of some form. Reservoir dredging, river dredging and canal dredging are again usually undertaken for the authority which either owns these facilities or is responsible for their operation. The same applies to beach replenishment and to many amenity dredging projects. Reclamation dredging and constructional dredging, on the other hand, may form only a small part of some larger project. Again the dredging may be undertaken directly for a client or on a sub-contract basis to a main contractor.
Organisations with the capability of executing a dredging project are similarly wide ranging. Many organisations with a requirement for dredging operate their own dredgers. This is especially true for maintenance dredging where the work is restricted in location and the opportunity exists to provide a dredger specially designed for that particular project. Thus many port authorities own and operate one or more dredgers, as do inland waterway authorities and government agencies responsible for drainage, irrigation and transport.
The alternative to operating an in-house dredger is to employ a dredging contractor. This is the practice followed by continental ports, such as Rotterdam and Antwerp, as well as by many UK ports. Dredging contractors are very varied in size and capability. Some contractors operate only at a local level, providing a service within a particular river or harbour to one or more clients. Larger contractors may operate on a national basis, or occasionally take contracts overseas. An international dredging contractor will work in any part of the world and will have the plant and equipment able to undertake any type of capital or maintenance dredging project. Today the industry is dominated by a small number of very large companies, mainly based in Belgium and The Netherlands. These companies have the financial resources to keep their dredging equipment in the technologically advanced state required to undertake dredging efficiently and to carry out the vast range of projects found throughout the world.