Tomorrow always seems rather far away. But if one thing was clear from this year’s annual CEDA Dredging Days – held in the Ahoy Conference Center in Rotterdam from November 7 through 9 – tomorrow is actually here and now.
Consider climate change and global warming consider the constant demands for energy and the growing populations living in coastal zones. And consider that by pure chance this event with the theme “The day after we stop dredging” took place just at the moment that an enormous nor’easter threatened the coastlines of the countries bordering the North Sea. For the first time in its history since it was finished a decade ago the Maeslantkering Barrier south of Rotterdam was closed as was the Thames River Barrier in London.
In the UK police went door-to-door in the low-lying coastal areas of Yorkshire warning residents to evacuate. This type of storm surge combined with high tides was similar to the event in 1953 which devastated the southern part of the Netherlands and gave rise to the Dutch efforts to protect their coasts with ambitious dredging and reclamation bulwarks. The conference was abuzz with the sudden urgency of thinking about the possibilities of what indeed would happen if we stopped dredging. The question “Without dredging will flood risks be increased?” was clearly no longer rhetorical.
Amidst these storm warnings well-respected expert Dr. Ronald Waterman a long-time advocate of “Building with Nature via Integrated Coastal Management” took the podium as the opening keynoter. He laid the groundwork for the conference focus: The intertwining of socio-economic necessity of dredging and the People-Planet-Profit principle. With a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor he responded to the conference theme by saying: The day after we stop dredging is the day we decide we had best start again.
The second keynoter Fred Aerts head of the Flemish Community Maritime Access raised and answered the question: “Why is dredging necessary for navigation and trade?” His scenario of what would happen if our ports could no longer accept larger ships – we would have to revert to smaller ships and land transportation – conjure a picture that would certainly not improve our environmental situation. Nor would it improve employment opportunities in major port cities.
“Land Reclamation and Beach Nourishment – The Dubai Experience” the keynote by Gary Mocke Principal of MaSTconsult gave insight into the capabilities of sustainable land extensions for residential and recreational as well as commercial purposes. Such mega-reclamation development is possible because of new dredging technologies and he emphasized that these projects also take into account the ongoing sea level rises and storm surges. The fourth keynoter Ian Selby of Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd Southampton UK emphasized that “Marine aggregates or sand farming in terms of business and sustainability do make sense.”
The closing keynote by Gerard van Raalte a senior expert at Hydronamic the engineering arm of Boskalis posed the Shakespearean question: “To Dredge or not To Dredge.” Not wholly unexpected he came to the conclusion that not to dredge is not an acceptable option in our modern world. In fact historically people have always shaped their landmasses by dredging but today we dredge with awareness of and concern for biodiversity and sustainability. More than ever the dredging industry has the tools to do their work in a responsible way.
The efforts of the dredging industry to listen to modern-day environmental issues was evident during the special panel discussion which was part of the final session. Panel participants included Nick Bray chairman Hans Otten of the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat Tiedo Vellinga manager of the new reclamation project Maasvlakte at the port of Rotterdam Yve Bosteels of the Belgian dredging contractor Jan De Nul Gerard van Raalte of Hydronamics Andy Birchenough of CEFAS (Centre for Environment Fisheries & Aquaculture Science in the UK) a group that encourages sound science and sustainable management of natural resources and Arjan Berkhuysen of the World Wildlife Fund.
As the conference came to a close a few “awards” were part of the ceremonies. DPC presented a prize for the best poster presentation which was won by Gert-Jan Roelse and Simon de Waard. The award was presented by Tony Slinn editor of DPC.
Next on the podium was Constantijn Dolmans Secretary General of the International Association of Dredging Companies (IADC) who presented the IADC Award for the best paper award by a young author to Stefan Aaltinhof of Royal Boskalis. Stefan’s paper “The day after we stop dredging: A world without sediment plumes?” represented research done on the comparison of dredging-induced sediment plumes with other sources of plumes such as natural processes (storms) fishing and shipping. Field trials were conducted in both Bremerhaven and in Rotterdam to assess turbidity caused by dredging and the data collected were used to evaluate the benefits of green valve technology.
As is customary the IADC asked the CEDA Technical Paper Committee chaired by Wim Vlasblom professor emeritus of Technical University Delft to recommend a paper written by a younger (under 35 years of age) author in an effort to attract young people in the dredging industry and encourage and recognize their contributions.
One last event deserves mention even though it took place outside the conference and exhibition halls. The day before the official opening of the conference a technical site visit was made to the large underground metro station and tunnel being built underneath the River IJ in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam’s Central (train) Station stands on an artificial island in the River IJ. This new metro stop at CS is part of the north-south metro service with a nine-kilometer-long tunnel and eight stations which will connect the northern and southern suburbs of Amsterdam with the city center.
After many years in Amsterdam and the past two years in Rotterdam next year’s CEDA Dredging Days has found a new venue for 2008. It will take place in Antwerp Belgium from October 1 through 3.