IADC Secretary-General René Kolman: Dredging Monitoring Debate

IADC Secretary-General René Kolman

IADC has published an article in which René Kolman, IADC secretary-general, considers whether adaptive monitoring can help save money and time.

Kolman stated that monitoring at dredging sites for port expansion and maintenance is a necessary element in the planning and development process.

It provides invaluable data for both the client and the contractor to minimise environmental impacts while simultaneously optimising the design. It also helps in communicating accurately with regulators, the public, and other stakeholders who may doubt the dredging process. But what and how to monitor continues to be debated, often to the detriment of gathering useful data.

In practice, a great deal of time is spent on compliance monitoring, far from the actual dredging site. Day after day data is assembled and the result of all this effort is vast amounts of information with little value.

Compliance monitoring will always be needed but it should be conducted in a smarter way, with a focus on relevant issues and uncertainties. ‘Adaptive monitoring’can be a management solution that gives better long-term research results and increased credibility among all parties.

The dredging industry understands the need for monitoring and has done so for a long time. As a result it has invested in equipment and research to supply the required data to ensure dredging causes as little disturbance as possible.

For most major dredging projects, five parties are involved: the government that issues permits; the owner, such as the port authority; the stakeholders;the contractor that will do the work; and in some cases a financier, such as the World Bank. Each has a vested interest in understanding the potential environmental impact.

Monitoring of large projects usually takes place before, during and after dredging and maritime construction. It establishes an environmental baseline, which recognises natural occurrences such as storms, as well as human activities unrelated to dredging, such as shipping and fishing. It takes into account both seasonal and geographical variations.

For example, for the Maasvlakte 2 project at the Port of Rotterdam the environmental impact assessment (EIA) ran to 6,500 pages, of which more than half were devoted to dredging-related items.

After many years of unrestrained industrial development, owners and stakeholders are often concerned that dredging may cause more harm than good, and so the facility’s owner, environmentalists, the dredging industry, and sometimes the courts, tend to be overly cautious.

Furthermore, monitoring can be driven by short-term funding and political motivation rather than scientific enquiry. It can ask the wrong questions or not make use of previous data or predictions.

In contrast, adaptive monitoring tries to pinpoint where potential problems lie by asking defined questions before monitoring begins.

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Source: iadc-dredging, June 12, 2013