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WEDA Hosts Large Crowd for WODCON XXI in Miami

At the opening plenary session are, from left, John Dobson, EADA; Capt. David Padman, EADA; Thomas Cappelino, WEDA; Ram Mohan, WEDA; Edward Belk, Corps of Engineers; Anna Csiti, CEDA; and Polite Laboyrie, CEDA.

At the opening plenary session are, from left, John Dobson, EADA; Capt. David Padman, EADA; Thomas Cappelino, WEDA; Ram Mohan, WEDA; Edward Belk, Corps of Engineers; Anna Csiti, CEDA; and Polite Laboyrie, CEDA.

More than 600 people attended the Western Dredging Association (WEDA) 21st World Dredging Congress and Exposition, WODCON XXI, at the Hyatt Regency Miami from June 13 to 17. WEDA members were joined by sister associations the Central Dredging Association (CEDA) and the Eastern Dredging Association (EADA), which together form the World Organization of Dredging Associations (WODA). WODCON is held once every three years.

Leading the Thursday Plenary Session on the Corps’ Navigational Successes and Challenges, are, from left, Lt. Col. Michael Bliss, commander, Philadelphia District; Col Kevin Landers, commander, Wilmington District; Col. Jose Aguilar, commander, Portland District; and Col. Christopher Drew, commander, Chicago District.

Of the conference overall, Ram Mohan of Anchor QEA, WEDA president, said, “Three years ago, WEDA’s new leadership set out to develop a strategic plan for an organization that is member focused, technically sharp, and facilitate business networking at events, as well as develop closer ties with existing chapters. We wanted to expand chapters in Central and South America, as well as formulate collaborative partnerships with other WODA regions and professional organizations. We achieved all of that and more, in the last three years,” Mohan said. He said the rebranded conferences “Dredging Summit & Expo” in Toronto and Houston in 2014 and 2015, led the way to the success of WODCON this year.

Mohan also said one of WEDA’s strength’s is “our small size, which allows us to focus on individual member needs, unlike larger organizations. Our chapter meeting also facilitate smaller group, regional business networking.”

This year after the conference, Mohan stepped down after serving as WEDA president for three years, replaced by former vice president Marcel Hermans of the Port of Portland. Hermans will serve as chair and president until 2019. Joining him is Alan Alcorn of Moffatt & Nichol, vice president; Matt Binsfeld of J.F. Brennan Company Inc., treasurer; and Carol Shobrook of J.T. Cleary Inc., secretary. 

At the Board of Directors cocktail party on the Hyatt patio, WEDA officers honor outgoing chair Ram Mohan. From left, Marcel Hermans, Alan Alcorn, Ram Mohan, Tom Cappelino and Carol Shobrook.

To open the conference, some members gathered on June 13 for short courses on dredge material capping; slurry transport; dredge pump application and operation; and dredging safety. On Sunday, June 12, HR Wallingford, an independent research and consultancy in civil engineering and environmental hydraulics, and Piedroba Consulting Group, risk managers for dredging projects, offered an executive dredging course, covering a range of topics from types of dredging and equipment to project de-sign and management.

Monday evening, June 13, the conference opened with an ice breaker reception, “Welcome to Miami,” hosted by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. 

Ram Mohan of Anchor QEA, WEDA president, opened the conference to all attendees on Tuesday morning, June 14, along with a panel of WODA representatives – John Dobson, EADA; Capt. David Padman, EADA; Thomas Cappellino, WEDA executive director; Edward Belk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Polite Laboyrie, CEDA; and Anna Csiti, CEDA. “We’re all connected in the world of dredging,” Mohan said. He said the conference, hosted once every nine years by WEDA, took a year in planning.

Prior to the Gala Dinner on Thursday evening are, from left, Gil Lim Yoor, Yong-Bae Kwon, unkown, Sun Bin Kim, Chansoo Yeo, Brian Seong-Ho Kim, unknown.

At the opening session, Mohan also took time to discuss a WODA environmental statement on mitigating and adapting to climate change. “The WODA statement reflects the commitment of the international dredging and maritime construction industries to confronting the serious challenges that climate change presents to the well-being of the global community and the planet,” Mohan said.

Craig Voigt, WEDA Environmental Commission chair, said the statement was in part a response to the call and commitment to action from Paris Climate Change Agreement. “We in WODA know that the dredging industry is well-situated to help in adapting to rising sea levels, protecting our shorelines, nourishing beaches, building dunes, and enhancing the health of our coastal and inland ecosystems. The WEDA Environmental Commission will initiate activities this year to document the contributions of the dredging industry to the challenges and to the framework for action provided in the WODA Statement on Climate Change,” Voigt said. To read the statement in full, see the story on page 23.

Enjoying J.F. Brennan’s hospitality on the Tuesday evening cruise are Dan McDougal, Jason Collene and Justin McDougal of Dredge America.

Voigt said the statement was initially discussed by WEDA, CEDA and EADA in the fall of 2015. The Environmental Commissions of WEDA and CEDA drafted the statement in early in 2016, and then underwent several reviews by all three organizations. The statement was finalized in early June 2016, approved by each board of directors of each organization.

OPENING PLENARY: CORPS CONNECTION
Edward Belk, Operations and Regulatory Division chief, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spoke at the opening plenary session about the status of Corps dredging projects, funding and successes and challenges. The Corps of Engineers attendance at WODCON was high this year, and Belk encouraged the other attendees to interact with Corps representatives and ask them questions. “The one thing we all have in common is dredging,” Belk said.

He gave a brief history of the Corps of Engineers, an old federal agency authorized in 1775. In early 1802, the U.S. military established West Point, the only institution at the time that produced engineers. In the 1830s, Congress started considering the country’s rivers and harbors, first to map them and then, improve them. Congress turned to the Corps of Engineers, who have always led the way in all aspects of waterway infrastructure maintain and operation. “The Corps of Engineers is intertwined with the development of this nation,” Belk said.

From left, Sean Duffy, Chuck Broussard and Paul Quinn on the Tuesday evening cruise.

Showing the map outlining the different Corps districts, Belk explained that the boundaries are organized by watersheds. While the regional and district commands reflect the military leadership of the Corps, the overwhelming workforce, some 33,000 people at the Corps, are civilians, making the Corps a unique military-civilian blend.

Belk also explained that the overall work-force of this unique agency will expand and contract based on the workload. “We don’t get funding for people, for rent or for books and pencils; we get funding for projects and as those projects go, so goes our workforce and how we size ourselves,” Belk said.

Overall, Belk said right now, the Corps has around $23 billion of new construction projects across the nation. The agency’s annual operations and maintenance (O&M) funds are around $3 billion a year and a significant portion of that goes to dredging.

Stephen Rutherford, left, manager of Global Construction Industries at CAT’s Peoria headquarters, addressed the group before the Gala Dinner.  He is joined by colleague Jan Kirkton. Caterpillar, a premier sponsor of the conference, provided a scale model of an excavator for each table at the dinner.  CAT is a new sustaining member of WEDA.

He said the largest amount of funding and cubic yards dredged overall are for maintenance dredging. He mentioned important work along the Mississippi River to keep navigation open and significant work in emergency funding along the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy damage. His numbers of annual cubic yards dredged showed a large spike in 2014 due to the investment after Sandy and additional in-vestment in new projects.

In addition to deepening and improving harbors and maintaining current infrastructure, the Corps is also focused on better science to better use sediment beneficially, doing more coastal restoration projects and looking to combine routine maintenance dredging with a restoration element.

A discussion of Corps infrastructure, projects and funding would not be complete without a discussion of its challenges – the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that U.S. waterways will need $140 billion over the next five years, but Corps annual budgets are around $4.5 billion. “We have to make every dollar count,” Belk said.

Making those dollars count means prioritizing projects and funding, and Belk said an important tool for that is the Corps asset management system and considering infrastructure from a lifecycle perspective. In terms of using dollars for navigation channel work, Belk said the Corps is putting dollar in higher tonnage ports and higher production channels.

On the Friday Miami Harbor field trip are, from left, Greg and Sandra Holder, presi-dent and owner respectively of their new company Dredge Constructors, with Alan Alcorn of Moffatt & Nichol.

The asset management system also considers not just the age of infrastructure, but also focuses more on infrastructure performance. “We’re focused on buying down risk and sustaining performance,” Belk said. He also said that is a definite challenge with resource constraints.

Public private partnerships (P3s) continue to be a focus for the Corps of Engineers to help bridge that gap in funding. (Many of the partnerships are actually public-public-private partnerships P4s, meaning the Corps works with another local entity, state, county or port authority, etc., along with the private sector contractor.) P3s and P4s are routine in much of the world. They are not in the U.S., for a few reasons, Belk said. “The municipal bond market is very mature and a lot of infrastructure has been built with that tool since the 1970s,” he said. Until more recent budget restraints, there wasn’t as much demand here for alternative funding.

Sape Miedema, left, of TU Delft with Dave Simonelli of GLDD.

Although the Corps has challenges with funding, aging infrastructure, environmental regulations and sediment management strategies, it has many active stakeholders and partners, Belk said, and the Corps will continue to “invest smartly to sustain performance.”

A Commander’s Panel was new to the con-ference this year, bringing Corps of Engineers leaders together to engage with the industry to understand the regional issues. 

Safety Commission panel, from left, Maxie Maguire, Russ Zimmerman, Luke Ploessl and Randy Steed.

Hermans said the Corps presence at WEDA meetings is important, and it has been challenging. “You can’t take dredging out of the Corps and visa versa. When you’re talking dredging, you need to have the Corps involved,” Hermans said. In recent years, the Corps attendance at WEDA meetings has improved significantly, after restrictions were put on Corps travel and conference attendance under budget constraints.

Hermans said WEDA will continue to sup-port Corps attendance. One way he said for the organization to do that is by connecting at the chapter level, by encouraging Corps employees to get involved at the local level where they work. Hermans said WEDA also continues to work with Corps headquarters, and its leadership serves on the WEDA board to help guide the connection between industry and government.

Devon Carlock, right, of Cottrell Contracting Corporation, visits with Neptune Flo-tation Sales Manager Andy Elder with ideas for improvement of Neptune’s new above-water pipe float design.

Each day of the conference included a number of presentations tracks on various topics – dredge design and sustainability; sediment and water transport; open water placement and capping; instrumentation and automation; planning and permitting; mechanical dredging; remediation and reuse; dredge pumps; dewatering dredge sediment; port planning; powering dredges; wetland restoration; dredge maintenance and more.

For more coverage from the WODCON XXI conference on the environmental, safety and paper awards and other exhibitor news, see pages 22 to 32. 

SAFETY COMMISSION
The Safety Commission, led by Julie Hile of Hile Group and Safety Commission chair, served as the opening plenary session on Wednesday, June 15. The discussion touched on many important safety issues, including the movement within industry safety programs toward safety accountability, from a program that once fully embraced the no-blame culture. Panel members – Randy Steed of Ross Island & Gravel Co.; Maxie McGuire of Callan Marine LLC; Luke Ploessl of J.F Brennan Co.; and Russ Zimmerman of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. – talked about their company’s safety programs and what they have learned as their safety programs change. The session entitled, “The Gift of Safety Accountability: Conversations that Product (and Protect) Safety Champions,” began with a welcome from Hile.

“The Safety Commission has been on the move over the last few years, and we’re happy to be increasing membership in the commission,” she said. The session’s topic, Hile said, is becoming more and more important in discussions around a company’s safety culture and policy and procedures. She began the discussion by asking the panel to focus on the company’s policies and procedures for holding people accountable.

Zimmerman said, “Great Lakes had a no blame culture and have come to realize that accountability is important to hold people accountable for their actions.” He said Great Lakes made great strides with safety in the 90s, and the improvement on incident data began to plateau in the early 2000s. At that time, Great Lakes went to IIF [Incident and Injury Free] and the no-blame culture. “We had tremendous success but once again in the last couple of years with the no-blame culture, we have plateaued again, and we began to consider what the next steps were.” Some of those next steps included making the crew involved in the development of safety policies and procedures, and for those no taking safety seriously, the company implemented an accountability policy. “It kind of woke some people up,” Zimmerman said.

Ploessl from J.F. Brennan Co. echoed what Zimmerman said about getting employees involved in safety discussions and planning. “Crew involvement is huge. We want to be solution driven. We don’t want to go out and police them,” Ploessl said. The other side of accountability is creating an environment where discussions about safety and daily practices is comfortable and encouraged.

McGuire said, one of the most important things to remember is, ‘You’re in the people business.” By measuring the company’s safety progress, those that succeed are rewarded. “We measure near misses and re-ward our teams based on that,” McGuire said. Providing incentives also encourages teams to look out for safety issues on the job, he said.

Zimmerman said Great Lakes also included its crew in developing rule books and other safety procedures and rules. “We included all the crew, from site managers to deck hands; they took a big ownership of safety rules and culture.” Great Lakes developed Life Saving Absolutes, twelve rules, which cannot be broken and are likely to cause injury. On the first violation, Zimmerman said Great Lakes employees are coached on what went wrong and given a decision-making leave, three days off to consider whether or not they want to come back and work safely.

Great Lakes also has a safety rule book, which has a three strikes policy – first offense the employee is coached, second offence is a decision-making leave and the third offense, employees are dismissed, Zimmerman said.

“The first person that took leave was a salaried manager. That really sent a message to the crew,” Zimmerman said.

While safety is a constant concern for crewmembers on the line, communicating safety importance and procedures can be a challenge for middle management. When moving from no-blame to accountability in the safety culture, ”Don’t let the pendulum swing to far the other way,” Steed said. “Accountability becomes all blame to the crew. There’s a way to do it where you can make your manager part of that. Make them accountable to the safety program, at the same level as the crew.” In addition to communicating on-site, management’s responsibility to safety includes proper training and attention to public safety for each project.

Ploesl said a bit part of accountability is solutions. “If you just have a conversation, people take it lightly,” he said. “You have to have a solution you can share with the team; you have solved the problem and it’s not going to happen again.”

WEDA NEWS AND FUTURE
Hermans said WEDA leadership got a lot of positive feedback on the conference. “The location worked very well. It was interesting and lively, and easy to get to. It helped the attendance,” Hermans said.

He said the majority of attendees were from the U.S., so attracting more international attendance is a future goal and continued challenge for all the organizations. As the program is generally led by U.S speakers about issues and projects here, Hermans said more international focus in the program might help draw in more international attendees. Likewise, the large presence from the U.S. Corps of Engineers is vital for WEDA members, but less applicable to international members.
WEDA has made great strides in rebranding and reorganizing the association, and Hermans said now WEDA would like to focus on solidifying the changes it has already made, and connecting with members.

Next year, the WEDA conference will take place in British Columbia, Canada. Hermans said in choosing a location, the organization tries to rotate between regions and coasts, and choose a location that is close to the majority of membership. WEDA is also looking to start a Canadian chapter. Right now, Canadian WEDA members meet with the closest U.S. chapter, but Hermans said WEDA hopes to add a chapter in Canada this year.

The new Central America chapter will also meet for a second this year in Panama City, Panama, from September 13 to 15. 

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