Interview: Spotlight on Adaptive Management in Dredging

Rene Kolman

Rene Kolman is Secretary General at the International Association of Dredging Companies (IADC), the global umbrella organisation for contractors in the private dredging industry.

With over one hundred main and associated members, IADC is dedicated to not only promoting the skills, integrity and reliability of its associates, but also the dredging industry in general. Kolman takes a leading role in promoting the industry’s long-standing commitment to environment and sustainability.

Q: What are your main responsibilities as Secretary General at IADC?

Kolman: I am in charge of developing and managing the dissemination of information about dredging and its positive role in society. Through seminars, publications and presentations at conferences, IADC offers support to port authorities, developers and stakeholders on a diversity of subjects such as technology, environment and climate change.

I represent the international dredging industry through collaborations with the International Association of Port and Harbours (IAPH), The World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) and the World Dredging Association (WODA). I am a member of several IAPH and PIANC committees as well as PIANC’s Permanent Task Group Climate Change.

I am also responsible for all activities organised within the association such as educational activities for employees of member companies, multiple working groups at sister associations and the Annual General Meeting.

Q: What are the main functions of IADC and how do members benefit from the Association?

Kolman: IADC has five core functions: informing, promoting, educating, networking and connecting. The publication of the “Terra et Aqua” journal is the most prominent activity with regard to informing. It is the only near scientific journal on the subject of dredging. In addition to this, there is a very extensive knowledge base on our website.

Image source: IADC

If you can’t find the answer to your question, just send an email or give us a call and we will get the answer for you from experts in our network of members.

We have a lot of interaction with related industries. We are a small sector but with a large economic and social impact. Our activities will have much more impact when we team up with other organisations. For this, we participate in working groups by PIANC and IAPH. Recently, we organized a workshop at the Global Session of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment in the lead up to the Fourth Session of the UN Environment Assembly together with PIANC and CEDA.

IADC has 11 members which are all privately-owned companies who work all around the globe. Their employees meet in working groups to work on the “Dredging in Figures” publication, the cost standards for dredging equipment, the development of safety standards or during educational activities.

Q: What is adaptive management in a dredging project and what are the benefits?

Kolman: Dredging and placement projects are often permitted with license conditions based on an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This may result in strict thresholds to assure environmental performance with levels deemed to be acceptable, based on the findings of impact assessments.

In other cases, less clear environmental limits are specified. This is sometimes due to the level of uncertainty about effect on and responses by nature caused by inability to fully appreciate and judge environmental conditions (sensitivity of receptors) and potential project effects (vulnerability to changes), or for other reasons such as sharing responsibilities and risks.

Effects on the environment can be both negative as well as positive and monitoring of both outcomes is sometimes required, although monitoring of potential negative impacts is more common to ensure protection of the environment.

Image source: IADC

For those dredging projects where the outcome is less certain, or accompanied by a low confidence in the prediction of effects, a sequence of more intense and targeted monitoring, impact assessment and management actions might be implemented. Where this is the case, there may be benefits in adopting an adaptive management strategy whereby the management of the project can be adapted based on the ongoing findings of the monitoring program.

This approach can benefit the sensitive receptor as management can be adjusted to ensure full protection. The project owner can also benefit as overly conservative mitigation measures can be downsized during the course of the ongoing monitoring. This sequence of activities is jointly understood as ‘adaptive management’, although interpretation and ways of implementation may vary considerably between projects, and even between different stakeholders on any project.

Adaptive management helps to achieve desired goals by addressing uncertainty, incorporating flexibility and robustness into project design, and using new information to inform decision-making as the project develops.

Goals include an efficient project design and streamlining implementation protocols to minimize waste of resources which, when holistically viewed, could decrease the project’s overall environmental footprint.

Q: There is a current overcapacity in the dredging market. Do you foresee this to continue in the medium/long term?

Kolman: The IADC’s members have invested a lot in modern equipment dedicated to their specific tasks in the last 10 years. IADC members are very engaged in reducing their environmental footprint. The first dual fuel hopper dredgers are already on the job.

On the other hand, the “Dredging in Figures” shows a decrease in the market over the last couple of years. China and the United States are closed markets for dredging companies from outside these countries, so a large ‘piece of the pie’ is not accessible.

The drivers of the industry are world trade, coastal protection, energy, tourism and urban development. Over the long-term, the signs for these drivers all show green.

Q: What markets have more potential over the coming years?

Kolman: History shows that the focal point of the industry’s activities shift all over the world.

In the early 2000s, the Middle East was the center of activities while ten years later, it was Australia with port development projects to export resources like iron ore and LNG.

Looking to the drivers, one might expect more coastal protection projects due to sea level rise and subsiding land in low-lying deltas. An increasing number of people are living in urban areas near the coast. To accommodate all these people, urban development projects are necessary.

The UN predicts an increase of the population in Africa, resulting in an increase of imports and exports through ports. An increase in the size of vessels makes deeper ports necessary. This will result in work for dredging companies.

Q: Technology plays an important part in dredging. Please tell us about any recent innovative ideas that members of IADC have applied to the industry.

Kolman: Most of the innovations are developed in projects. The contractor has to adjust his or her way of working on a project to meet environmental regulations. Involved parties have to discover how processes and equipment can be adapted to meet the requirements which are already set.

This will result in incremental innovations. You don’t see real game changers in the industry. Dredging means loosen the material, lift it out of the water, transport it and deposit the material. This has already been done for centuries in a mechanical way and since the last century, in a hydraulic way. The size of hoppers has increased over the past decades.

Today, we have two cutters which are being built with more than a 50% increase in capacity compared with the present largest. But there is no real difference apart from the size.


Courtesy of Marine Strategy