International Dredging Review

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In February the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ national expert in dredge equipment Vinton C. Bossert retired from the Corps’ Marine Design Center (MDC) after nearly three decades building and repowering dredges for the Corps fleet.

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Since 2006 Bossert was the senior marine engineering specialist at the Corps of Engineers MDC in Philadelphia. He provided guidance to all the Corps districts on marine mechanical electrical power/control and navigation systems and equipment specializing in dredging systems and equipment. Bossert knows the Corps fleet of dredges well having worked on developing and repowering many of them. He participated in the development of new applications materials equipment and systems for the Corps fleet.

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The dredge Potter was originally built in 1932 and Bossert repowered the dredge in 2001. He was also part of the team that rehabbed the 83-year-old dredge Potter in 2011.

Bossert began at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point New York achieving a B.S. in Marine Engineering in 1981 and started his career as a technical manager for MDC from 1981 to 1989. He guided project development and project execution for marine projects.

In 1989 Bossert became chief machinery section and was responsible for all mechanical and electrical aspects of the engineering design and construction management program at MDC until he became assistant chief design branch in 1992. He oversaw the work of six mechanical engineers one electrical engineer four naval architects and three technicians and projects ranging from $100000 to $70M including dredges floating cranes towboats and other specialty craft.

Bossert took the time to discuss with IDR his  career the advancement of dredge technology over the decades and some of the great memories working with the Corps fleet.

One project that stands out for Bossert was work done early on in his career in Sudan. The project started in 1984 left a lasting impression on his young mind. “I learned to be very resourceful there” he said.

The El Rosieres Dam on the Blue Nile in Damazin Sudan supplied 90 percent of Sudan’s power mostly to the north. A bank of sediment had built up and eventually collapsed the turbines shutting down the power plant. The government of Sudan reached out to the U.S. State Department who called the Corps of Engineers. Bossert along with a team of experts went to Sudan to assess the situation.

“After a long process of deciding what to build them we finally built a 120-foot by 40-foot grab dredge; two 80-foot by 20-foot 65-cubicyard hopper barges; a 600 hp pushboat 60 feet by 20 feet; and a little crewboat” Bossert said. DredgeMasters International (DMI) in Hendersonville Tennessee won the contract to build it and the dredge project was subcontracted to Gulf Coast Fabricators in Gulfport Mississippi. All the vessels had to be built in 40-foot by 10-foot by 10-foot sections. Eight welders from DMI went with Bossert to reassemble and launch the dredge on-site and train the Sudanese. He spent four months there and has years of stories and memories.

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During Bossert’s career he was involved with building the Essayons commissioned in 1982-83. He also later was part of the team that repowered the dredge in 2008 – 09.

NEWER AND BETTER TECHNOLOGY

Over his career Bossert has seen many advances in dredge technology with dredge automation being one of the most important. On dredge Essayons in 2003 the Corps team replaced the dredging control management system. That memorable project took Bossert to Singapore to “test-drive” dredges and automation systems from VOSTA and IHC. He was astounded by the dredges’ size efficiency and accuracy. Automation algorithms that control the dredging processes create such efficiency that manual control cannot compete. “A good operator may be able to beat the automation for an hour or maybe a watch but he can’t do it forever or with the lights off and the machine never comes in with a hangover” Bossert said.

With some technological changes even Bossert was hesitant as the industry is slow to change. When discussions about the water-based hydraulics systems for the dredge Murden began Bossert was skeptical. “I was trained to be an operator and didn’t want a system that stopped working after a couple years” Bossert said.

But they gathered all the research from the market and honed in on BOC Water Hydraulics Inc. of Salem Ohio. The company had worked extensively in the steel industry and the Corps was determined to use the technology for its new shallow draft split-hull dredge the first time this system would be used in the marine industry.

The fluid used to transmit power in the system on Murden is normal tap water with an environmentally friendly anti-freeze additive. “When the hopper is filled with sand it wants to naturally open and the hydraulics keep it closed” Bossert explained. “You can release the hydraulics with some control so it doesn’t open violently over the disposal site. The system has been working beautifully since 2011.”

In his years at the Corps Bossert built repowered and rehabbed several Corps dredges. He saw the beginning of the Essayons commissioned in 1982 – 83. He helped design and manage the construction of the Hurley in 1993 and the Murden in 2011. As part of the Corps MDC teams he also repowered the Jadwin Potter Essayons Yaquina and Wheeler.

More often than not Bossert’s work at MDC was rehabbing old vessels rather than building new which he said may not always be the best choice for the most efficient fleet. Because of how the Corps funds work on its dredges it has resulted in a somewhat outdated fleet. As example the dredge McFarland built in 1967 needs to be replaced.

While the law requires that the Corps have a modern minimum fleet to respond to emergency situations and Congress authorizes this minimum fleet Bossert thinks new Corps dredges should be funded rather than fixing and repowering the current fleet which in most cases is decades old.

In his studies Bossert read a publication from Ciria “C655 Costs Standards for Dredging Equipment 2005” by R.N. Bray and he learned about the cost of building European dredges and how certain technology design features and Naval Architectural parameters alter the life cycle cost and make dredges more efficient.

While the cost to repower a dredge is approximately 30 percent what it would cost to build new the Corps dredges are often lacking in efficiency because they don’t have the most up-to-date technology like dynamic positioning direct pumpout and automation. The Dutch by contrast Bossert said create lighter more efficient dredges that maneuver better and are designed for an 18-year replacement cycle.

Bossert will remain in the dredging industry having started Bossert Dredge Consulting LLC out of his home in Newark Delaware. He is consulting for BOC Water Hydraulics and The Sansail Group for the marine and dredging sectors. He can be reached at 302-740-1841 or vintonbossert@comcast.net.