Providing sustainable solutions to global challenges

22 Mar 2017
DEME is involved in Phase 1 of the megaproject Tuas Terminal  in Singapore

DEME is involved in Phase 1 of the megaproject Tuas Terminal in Singapore

DEME's mission is to provide sustainable solutions for some of the major challenges the world faces today including global warming, rising sea levels and the rising demand for energy, writes Helen Hill, on behalf of the DEME Group.

Due to these trends, there has been a spectacular growth in maritime trade and this has led to an equally impressive increase in the size of vessels. Consequently, dredging and port construction and expansion is an important part of DEME’s work as ports worldwide have to adapt to the new generation of super-sized container vessels, bulkers, tankers and gas carriers.

DEME has been assisting ports for decades, whether this involves capital dredging, where the port needs to guarantee their customers sufficient depth and width in the access channel, turning basins, docks and berths etc, or maintenance dredging.

Port construction & expansion

Capital dredging is always carried out taking a sustainable view and this often leads to the dredged material being used for the reclamation of new land. Coupled with this, DEME carries out soil investigation surveys, nautical studies and environmental assessments. The group’s infra marine specialist, DIMCO, can also design and build aspects of the civil marine related structures (quay walls, jetties etc).

In addition to capital dredging, DEME is an expert in maintenance dredging. Sedimentation and siltation are natural phenomena and a permanent threat to navigation and the accessibility of ports. Maintenance dredging requires a lot of knowledge about the dynamics of an estuary, and experience about how to deal with tides, currents, flood channels, bars and bends. Maintenance dredging is also carried out respecting the environment, by reducing overflow and limiting turbidity. Moreover, smart dredging supports natural processes and uses river dynamics, ensuring that the environment comes first.

Singapore to the Congo River

The global reach of DEME can be seen by just some of its recent projects, which are in all corners of the globe from the Maldives to Singapore to the Congo River.

In January this year, DEME secured several new contracts for dredging and land reclamation works in India and the Maldives. In India the company will carry out dredging works for ‘Project Seabird Phase II’ in a joint venture with L&T. It is one of the largest naval infrastructure projects in India, located at Karwar on the west coast. DEME will also execute maintenance dredging works on the approach channel to Karwar Port for the Directorate of Ports of Karnataka.

DEME also returns to the Maldives this year and is carrying out major land reclamation works at Emboodhoo Lagoon, located in the South Male Atoll. Ten islands will be reclaimed to develop a high-end integrated resort.

In the final quarter of 2016, DEME won its first dredging contract in Mauritius for the Container Terminal Quay Project, which is part of Port Louis Harbour’s expansion. The project at the Mauritius Container Terminal reflects the need to accommodate larger vessels and to handle an incremental increase in container traffic. The scope of work includes dredging in various soil conditions, including rock.

Earlier in 2016, Phase 1 of the megaproject Tuas Terminal got underway, when the first caisson was placed, marking a milestone in Singapore’s next generation container terminal development. Singapore is keen to retain its lead as a global maritime nation and to invest in port infrastructure. When completed, the 21 deepwater berths under Phase 1 will be able to handle 20 million teu per annum. The entire mega-terminal will have a total capacity of up to 65 million teu.  

In February 2015, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore awarded the contract to carry out the land reclamation and related works to Dredging International Asia Pacific (DEME’s Singaporean subsidiary) and DAELIM. The scope includes reclaiming 294 hectares of land, dredging the Tuas Basin and Temasek Fairway, as well as constructing the wharf.

The DIAP-DAELIM Joint Venture will use cutting-edge equipment and techniques to maximise efficiency. It will mobilise the world’s largest grab dredger and one of the most powerful cutter suction dredgers. In addition, the use of soil improvement techniques will allow the dredged materials from the deepening of basins and nearby fairway, as well as excavated earth obtained from other land construction projects, to be reused as reclamation fill materials for the project. Reusing such materials, which would otherwise be disposed of, reduces the quantity of sand fill required for reclamation, resulting in staggering cost savings of some S$1 billion.

Meanwhile, in Sierra Leone, a consortium including DEME has been awarded a significant contract for the extension of the Freeport Terminal. DEME will be responsible for the soil improvement, reclamation and compaction works, as well as for the deepening of the existing and future container berths. The Freetown Terminal, operated by the French group Bolloré Transport & Logistics, is undergoing an expansion programme that calls for the construction of a new 270m quay to accommodate vessels with a draught of 13m.

UN Sustainability goals

As mentioned, DEME’s goal is to play a part in helping to create a sustainable world. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals announced in 2015 provided DEME with a further source of inspiration as to how to achieve its ambition. And to this end, DEME signed the Belgian ‘SDG Charter’ in October 2016 and has decided to concentrate its efforts on the so-called five ‘P’ UN goals for a sustainable business: People, Planet, Partnership, Prosperity and Peace.

These five sustainable goals are particularly highlighted by one project taking place along the Congo River. DEME has been dredging the Congo River regularly since 1989 but until recently this was always carried out on an ‘emergency’ basis. The River had silted up to such a degree that inland cargo ships of a certain draught were no longer able to reach the ports of Boma and Matadi.

With its strong bond with the African continent and recognising that this crucial river artery is hugely important for economic prosperity, DEME decided it had to find a more sustainable solution. This led to the creation of a tenyear, public private partnership with the local dredging company ‘La Congolaise des Voies Maritimes’ (CVM).

A toll system was introduced for vessels on the Congo River to ensure the financial resources needed are in place to maintain the river depth and to counteract the silting up problems on a permanent basis. Dredging work began in 2015 and whereas the river used to have a 20ft draught, DEME now guarantees 26ft, which is very advantageous for shipowners but also for the local and regional economy. It is estimated that keeping this section of the Congo River silt free leads to a US$70 million economic boost for the country.

Another important part of the PPP is that it needed to make sure that CVM would eventually have its own vessel and three crews so it can be self-reliant in the future. Therefore, DEME is providing training for 40 Congolese youngsters. This includes a four-year study programme at the Antwerp Maritime Academy.

In recognition of this very special project, DEME was honoured to be presented with the ‘Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs’ Award for ‘the most sustainable company of 2016’. This award recognises companies from the North that sustainably promote entrepreneurship in the Southern Hemisphere.

As well as sustainability through projects, DEME’s drive for sustainability is seen in-house too. For example, DEME has taken the bold step that any new additions to its fleet are fitted with the most advanced equipment, not only technically speaking but also from an environmental point of view. They are equipped with solar panels, heat recuperation and dual-fuel main engines that can run on natural gas and diesel oil. 

Dual fuel vessels

DEME’s two new trailing suction hopper dredgers are the first in the world to be able to run purely on LNG. On board biodegradable fats are also used. The engines, together with a hydrodynamic hull shape, minimise the CO2 footprint and reduce fuel consumption dramatically. The dredgers also minimise turbidity generated by process water, making it easier to dredge in environmentally vulnerable areas.

The decision to invest in the LNG-powered TSHDs also led to the company and IHC being honoured with a DPC award in the “Innovation in Dredger Design” category.

The company’s efforts were also recognised when DEME became the first Flemish hydraulic engineering and environmental company to achieve the highest certification level under the newest standards of the ‘CO2 Performance Ladder’ (Lloyd’s Register Level 5 certification according to the new 3.0 standard). The CO2 Performance Ladder, which is used in the Benelux, stimulates companies participating in tenders to be aware of their CO2 emissions in their business operations and in the performance of projects.

2017 is no exception and will see DEME continue its sustainable efforts.

The company has developed a dedicated Energy Master Plan at its headquarters with clear targets such as energy independence, CO2 neutrality and efficient energy use. Several measures have already been put into place including cold and heat storage, solar panels, a wind turbine and charging stations for electric vehicles and bicycles.

Additionally, DEME maps its carbon footprint and its emission of greenhouse gases annually. The inventory complies with the internationally recognised ISO 14064 Standard and is certified by Lloyd’s Register.

Green & Blue Energy

DEME is also a frontrunner in the development of green and blue energy. The company was one of the founding partners of the first Belgian offshore wind farm C-Power and it has now become a renowned player in the European offshore wind market. Through DEME Concessions, itstraditional construction, installation and maintenance activities have been extended into full project development, including the associated financing.

And the company is also a pioneer in the new, blue energy world, which has led to the first full-scale, wave and tidal energy application. DEME Concessions has acquired an interest in the Scottish development company Tidal Power Scotland Limited (TPSL). Together with Scottish Enterprise, TPSL controls the MeyGen project, the world's first multi-turbine, tidal stream power station to be connected to the electricity grid.

Whether at its head office, in its activities or projects, DEME continues its focus on sustainability, believing that this is the only way it can provide successful, long-term solutions to these daunting global challenges.