International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

Dredging in Figures (DiF) is an annual review of the global dredging market compiled by the International Association of Dredging Companies (IADC). The 2015 report was published digitally on the website of the association in December 2016 and is available free of charge.

IADC’s Secretary General René Kolman said there is a need for such a compilation of dredging statistics: “For years getting good information about the dredging industry was hit or miss. Journalists and graduate students would call and ask us for information we didn’t have at hand. Ten years ago we took the decision to delve into the details and the results is the DiF as we call it. It has now become a well-recognized source of information for those in the industry and in related sectors. It presents pertinent information about the state of the worldwide dredging industry in the context of the world economy – and does that in a compact and comprehensible form.” 

Dredging in Figures is divided into three sections: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which includes sustainability emissions and safety; an analysis of the “drivers of the dredging industry” – population growth world trade coastal protection energy consumption and tourism; and the turnover in the open markets of the industry. 

According to Kolman the statistics provided are based on data gathered from a wide range of international sources as well as from the IADC member companies. “Each year the IADC members participate in a Delphi survey – a systematic interactive forecasting method in which experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. In addition analyses of company reports and other public sources are used for a broader view. All information is verified to the best of the association’s ability” Kolman said. 

The report states that information presented reflects known verifiable data about the open dredging market. Kolman explains that data about the closed markets is difficult to verify and therefore is not included in this year’s report. It thus does not include data from China and the U.S.

General information about the state of the world economy is gathered from various sources. This year’s report shows that the dredging industry is doing better than the overall world economy. Kolman recites a few statistics from the report: “Data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicated that the global economic growth in 2015 was 3.1 percent. Despite the slow growth and fluctuations in the world’s economy the dredging industry’s turnover in 2015 in open markets increased to €7.115 billion compared to €6.415 billion in 2014. This is an almost 10 percent increase.” Kolman admits that this increase is mainly a result of the sizable once-in-a-lifetime Suez Canal expansion project (€1.1 billion) which was carried out by six independent dredging companies from the Netherlands Belgium the U.S. and the Middle East.

He continues: “These results are rather remarkable given that overall economic growth in 2015 was slow. Although advanced economies experienced falling unemployment rolls economic recovery was modest.” The report also points out that emerging markets and developing economies as a whole had their fifth consecutive year of declining growth. 

The main focus of the report is the “six drivers of dredging.” Kolman emphasizes that “World trade is probably the most significant driver as a number of studies show a steep climb in the amount of goods transported by sea.” The World Trade Organization estimates that the value of all global trade is US$16.5 trillion and almost 85 percent of the volume is transported overseas. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) the seaborne trade from 1980 to 2015 has been gradually rising. While oil and gas have remained relatively stable main bulk commodities have shown a significant increase in these years. 

Pointing to projections by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Capacity to Grow report Kolman said “Container traffic by sea and estimated ship capacity is expected to grow between now and 2030. This means that numerous ports across the globe will need to improve their capacities in order to handle future trade growth. As well the increasing sizes of container ship are forcing ports to expand. This of course will have a direct positive effect on dredging – if present predications prove to be true.”

Demographics is another main driver of dredging. Kolman points out that according to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) the world population is expected to grow for decades to come. In July 2015 the world population reached 7.3 billion. The world has added one billion people since 2003 and two billion since 1990. “The World’s Cities in 2016” report from the UN estimates that 54.5 percent of the world’s population is living in urban settlements. The UN predicts that by 2030 urban areas will house 60 percent of people globally and one of every three people will be living in megacities with at least half a million inhabitants. Kolman adds “Increased world populations drives the need for more land reclamation for residential and commercial development especially in places such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Even in places like Panama new land made by dredging is being built.”

The energy sector is another important driver for the dredging industry Kolman said especially fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Although in the last few years this sector has found itself in a difficult stage it continues to exploit offshore resources in remote regions. Dredging is often required for such projects and regularly includes trenching and backfilling trenches as well as seabed preparation for offshore installations.  

According to the “BP 2016 Energy Outlook” report population and increase in income are driving the need for more energy. The report also states that fossil fuels remain the major source of energy across the world and gas looks set to become the fastest growing fossil fuel. However data from “BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016” noted that global primary energy consumption increased by just 1 percent in 2015 similar to the below-average growth recorded in 2014 (+1.1 percent). Offshore wind energy however is making significant inroads. And there dredging contractors also have a crucial role as they execute seabed preparation for the foundations of wind turbines and for the placement of cables. 

Another drive is tourism. “Tourism along coastlines and beaches is growing” Kolman said “and that includes cruise ships and yacht harbors. Beaches are a real magnet for tourism but with climate change they are even more prone to erosion than in the past. So the need for dredging contractors to execute beach replenishment work on a regular basis has been growing.” 

In summary Kolman remarks on the role of IADC. “We strive to represent the best interests of the whole dredging industry and we want to create a level playing field. Although this has not yet been realized in the global dredging market the Dredging in Figures report does offer insights and trends. It provides an invaluable tool for projecting the future needs for dredging and in that way can help dredging contractors develop strategic plans.” 

The IADC is headquartered in The Hague the Netherlands and is an umbrella group for private dredging contractors. The full report can be found on the IADC website under publications