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Six Contractors Dredging ‘New’ Suez Canal

Van Oord’s cutter suction dredge HAM 218, with 10,660 kW installed horsepower and discharge of 33.5 inches (850 mm), working in the Suez Canal on December 17.

Van Oord’s cutter suction dredge HAM 218, with 10,660 kW installed horsepower and discharge of 33.5 inches (850 mm), working in the Suez Canal on December 17.

Jan De Nul’s J.F.J. De Nul, at present the largest cutter dredge in the world, is one the dredges working on the Suez Canal expansion.

Six international dredging companies are at work in the Suez Canal, using 22 cutter suction and five hopper dredges to complete an expansion that will allow two-way traffic of the largest vessels through the 100-mile-long waterway.

The dredging contracts were let to two consortia on October 18, 2014. Work began on the excavation of nearly 200 million cubic yards of sand by the end of the year, and the project was half finished by mid-March.

A consortium consisting of NMDC (Abu Dhabi), Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Papendrecht), Van Oord (Rotterdam), and Jan de Nul (Belgium) is performing a US$1.5 billion contract to dig a new 22-mile (35-kilometer)-long parallel canal, and to widen and deepen a number of existing sections. The contract encompasses 80 percent of the project. Each partner will receive an equal share amounting to US$375 million. The partners are excavating a total of 180 million cubic yards of material, with each member dredging about 45 million cubic meters of material. The group has mobilized more than 20 dredges, mainly high-capacity cutter suction dredges, and some hoppers, with more planned for the end of the project. They are working simultaneously on their respective segments of the project, with plans to have the entire canal excavated on time this August.

Van Oord’s self-propelled cutter suction dredge Artemis working in the Suez Canal on February 13. The Artemis has a total installed power of 24,702 kW, and discharge of 39.4 inches (1,000mm).

More than a million cubic yards per day are being pumped into settling basins in the surrounding desert, creating a major logistics problem. The basins fill up so quickly that the sand begins falling back into the canal, requiring the basins to be enlarged to keep up with the dredging rate.

The channel in the new canal will be 492 feet (150 meters) wide at the base and 79 feet (24 meters) deep. The contract is for lots 2 through 5, with each member responsible for one lot.

A second consortium consisting of and Dredging International (75 percent) and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock (25 percent) is halfway finished with a US$540 million contract for lot 6 to deepen and widen the western branch of the existing Canal at Great Bitter Lake (GBL), Deversoir Reach at the north end of the GBL, and Kabreet Reach at the south end of the lake. The two companies are deepening the approximately 15.5 mile (25 kilometer) stretch to approximately 79 feet (24 meters) from an existing 66 feet (20 meters).

David Simonelli, president of Dredging Operations for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, said “The Suez Canal is vital to the global economy, providing the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia. This expansion project and the development of the Suez Canal Corridor will reduce transit times and bolster economic growth along the waterway. Great Lakes has a strong relationship and track record of success working with Dredging International, and we are pleased to be partnering with them on this significant project that will provide social and economic benefits to the region and around the globe.”

Satellite image shows the old and new canal routes. Suez Canal Authority image.

Dredging International is using the cutter dredges Al Mahaar, Al Jarraf, Amazone, and d’Artagnan; the hopper dredges Mellina, Breydel, Uilenspiegel, and Nile River; barges Sloeber, Pagadder and Pantagruele; auxiliary vessels Buckingham, Jacqueline, Zeebrugge II, Zwaan, Parakeet, Mugnas, Umiya; and auxiliary pontoons: Otter, DI621 and DI625 (anchor pontoons); EM1110, Kim Heng, EM1107, Thornton I, EM1006, EM1109, DI509 (booster), and Naseem.

Great Lakes transported its Middle  East-based high production cutter suction dredges Carolina and Ohio, pipelines and auxiliary support equipment to Egypt in November and began dredging in December.

NMDC is participating with five cutter suction dredges, including the cutter Al Mirfa, multiple auxiliary tugboats, Multicats, barges and many support vessels.

One of the first companies to arrive on the project, NMDC hosted Suez Canal Chairman Mohab Mamish and other officials aboard the dredge to witness the dredging. The officials toured the dredge and watched as it began pumping sand onto the adjacent desert. The company prepared a film, posted on You Tube, showing the dredge and auxiliary equipment being floated onto a submersible heavy-lift vessel in the UAE, then unloaded at the Suez Canal, the dredge readied for work, pipeline deployed, officials arriving and the slurry beginning to flow.

Boskalis began the project with the cutter suction dredges, Phoenix, Edax, and Cyrus II and trailing suction hopper dredges Coastway and Barent Zanen. The cutter dredge Jokra is scheduled to arrive in mid-April.

“As a consortium we are responsible for dredging the parallel section of the canal with a length of approximately 35 kilometers. Local contractors are responsible for the dry earthmoving, excavating the planned route down to sea level,” said Arno Schikker, Boskalis manager of Corporate Communications.

Van Oord has been working in the canal with the cutter dredges Artemis, HAM 218, Hercules and Zeeland II, and just recently added the trailing suction hopper dredge Volvox Asia.

Jan De Nul has six cutter dredges on the Suez project: J.F.J. De Nul (the world’s largest cutter dredge), Kaerius, Zheng He, Ibn Battuta, Hondius and Fernão de Magalhães.

The overall project is to create a second Suez Canal parallel to the existing one for half the route of the canal. The expansion will allow two-way traffic on the canal, which is now a single lane, with passing places at the El Ballah and in the Great Bitter Lake, limiting the capacity to about 50 ships per day.

South to north traffic does not stop, and ships travel in convoy, 10 minutes apart. North to south traffic is timed so the convoys are moored beside the channel at El Ballah south of Ismailia when the northbound convoy  reaches and passes them. Proceeding on, the southbound convoy again moors in the bypass in Great Bitter Lake in time for the next northbound convoy to pass.

The expansion will allow simultaneous twoway traffic and will double the capacity to 97 ships a day.

Mohab Mamish, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority announced the expansion plan on August 5, 2014 in the presence of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi. Funding was arranged by issuing interest-bearing investment certificates to Egyptian entities and individuals. The target amount of $8.4 billion was collected over six working days.

On October 18, Mamish awarded the dredging contracts for the entire project, and contractors began immediately to mobilize their dredges to the canal. Work is expected to be finished this August.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was present at the award ceremony, which inaugurated his program to revive an economy battered by years of political turmoil.

Egypt hopes the new canal will more than double revenues from the waterway by 2023 to $13.5 billion from $5 billion. It also plans to develop 29,000 square miles (76,000 square kilometers) along the canal corridor into an international industrial and logistics hub.

At the close of the Egypt Investment Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh held in mid-March this year, Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced that the conference had netted $36.2 billion in investments for the hub, signed and ready to be implemented. The focus of the contracts is on manufacturing, telecommunications, ports and logistics, with a major focus on energy-related activities.

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