Singapore: Regulators Need to Establish Legal Environmental Dredging Framework

For many years there have been little ground-breaking developments in the world of dredging according to Tore Hansen-Tangen, Executive Chairman of Viking Development Group. “The vessels have become larger, the control systems and other equipment have become more sophisticated, but the industry still uses the same types of vessels and basically the same methods as they used to,” he said.

Despite the sophistication of control systems, there are also environmental factors regarding dredging that needs to be addressed. Tore explains that the vessels have little control of exactly what they dredge. “Due to the fact that they are moving while dredging, there may be damages to coral reefs and the sea bed in general. In addition, these vessels will stir up debris, mud/silt and other impurities from the seabed, which may cause environmental problems.”

Lucien Halleux, Managing Director at G-Tec, believes that the long term environmental benefits of dredging have been ignored. “It is evident that large scale marine works do have a temporary negative environmental impact, but the long term positive impact of many dredging activities is usually ignored,” he said.

“Environmental dredging is a very obvious example showing how dredging techniques are used for long term improvement of the environment by removing, processing and/or confining polluted material. But there are also less obvious examples. At first sight, sand winning may seem very negative from an environmental point of view,” added Lucien.

But Lucien said that good design and planning is detrimental to sustainable dredging. “The sand is usually extracted from large expanses of featureless seabed. The sand winning operation may result in a reshaped sea bed, with sheltered areas offering new niches for marine life. It may also be complemented by the installation of artificial reefs, thus creating a far more diversified habitat than the initial situation. Of course, this requires a good design and planning of the operations, taking into account the local environmental conditions. This is a completely new way of thinking, aimed at minimizing the long term societal cost. It is far away from the cliché of ruthless dredging operations solely motivated by extracting as much as possible at the lowest possible cost,” he said.

“It is the task of the lawmakers to establish an efficient legal frame aimed at finding the right balance between short term negative impact and long term benefits for all stakeholders,”

Both Tore Hansen-Tangen & Lucien Halleux will be speaking at Dredging & Land Reclamation Asia, the only business platform for dredging and reclamation professionals.

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Source: iqpc, September 6, 2010