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What is Dredging

What is Dredging

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Published by: 4usammy on Mar 17, 2010
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Dredging is the operation of removing material from under water. In all but a fewsituations the excavation is undertaken by specialist floating plant, known as adredger. Dredging is carried out in many different locations and for many differentpurposes, but the main objectives are usually to recover material which has somevalue or use, or to create a greater depth of water. The latter is often associatedwith navigation, and it is the dredging of ports and harbours that is the mostcommon form of dredging and the one with which most engineers are familiar. Butdredging can form part of many other construction activities and it is important to beable to recognise both the capabilities of modern dredgers and the problemsassociated with their use.Dredging has grown into a very specialised activity. The plant and equipmentinvolved may have a capital cost of many millions of euro's; the largest of themodern dredgers found operating in the world today are capable of moving hundredsof thousands of cubic metres of material each week. Dredgers can bring greatbenefits. They allow new ports and harbours to be developed safely. They create theconditions for pipelines to be buried in the seabed, for sandy beaches to bemaintained and protected from erosion, for oil to be extracted from deep sea wellsand for maritime navigation to take place under safe conditions.Dredging can be carried out wherever there is sufficient water depth to allow adredger to operate. Thus dredgers can be found around the coasts, in rivers and incanals. They can be found in lakes and ponds far from the sea and they can be foundin exposed offshore locations far from land. Dredgers operate in every ocean of theworld, and they can also be found working reservoirs high up in the mountains of theAndes. Dredgers exist in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging in complexityfrom a simple grab crane on a floating pontoon to some of the most sophisticatedand technologically advanced vessels afloat. Some dredgers can be moved from siteto site by road transport; others are capable of sailing half way around the worldunder their own power.Dredging involves many different skills. Although essentially a civil engineeringactivity, the work requires knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering,electronics, naval architecture, the marine environment and many other disciplines.Above all it is a practical subject. Many of the activities are computerised and highlyautomated, but there is still great reliance on the experience of those involved inboth the planning and the execution of the different types of projects.The operation of dredging involves four distinct processes. The in-situ material mustfirst be disturbed and loosened from its natural state. It then has to be moved fromthat position to the water surface. These two phases are generally considered to bethe dredging operation. Following on are the equally important transport andrelocation phases. Transport may take place in a barge or hopper, or as a suspensionin pipeline flow. The cost of transport may be a high proportion of the overalldredging cost, especially if the relocation site is at some considerable distance fromthe dredging site.Dredging is recognised as having the potential for major environmental impact.Whether in the dredging operation or in the disposal stage, care must be taken tominimise disturbance to marine life. Also, the dredged material should not beregarded simply as waste. Consideration has to be given to the potential for some
form of beneficial use of the material. With increasing environmental awareness andtightening legislative control, finding a suitable site to relocate the dredged materialcan be a major constraint on the implementation of a dredging project
. Reasons for Dredging
The recovery from under water of material which has some value or use is the firstmajor objective of dredging. In this instance dredging can be regarded as a form of mining. The dredging of tin ore was an early example of mineral dredging, but gold,coal, rare earths and phosphates are among other materials which are won bydredging. The dredgers involved in this type of mining are highly specialised andcustom built for a particular project. They may include some form of on-boardprocessing of the recovered material and are usually owned by the mining company.A much more common material won by dredging is sand and gravel for use inconcrete manufacture. Sea-dredged aggregate is a valuable alternative to land-based sources of these construction materials. The UK's marine-aggregate dredgingindustry is one of the largest in the world and lands many millions of tonnes of sandand gravel each year. Aggregate dredging also takes place in many inland waters,including rivers, lakes and ponds. Aggregate dredgers are usually specially designedand constructed for the particular operation and are owned and operated bycompanies whose main activity is construction material supply.The creation of new land by hydraulic fill is an important use of dredged material. Inmany coastal situations there is a great shortage of land suitable for development.One way of providing additional space is to raise the existing sea-bed levels by theplacement of suitable material recovered from another location. The dredging sitemay be one where there is a need for deeper water associated with the new land,but more usually is some natural deposit of sediment which can be dredged easilyand quickly. After transport to the area to be reclaimed, the material is pumpedashore as a suspension. The sand quickly settles to leave a compact base for suchprojects as new industry, housing, transport infrastructure and port development.The emphasis is very much on moving large volumes of material as quickly and aseconomically as possible.Beach nourishment is another aspect of dredging where the prime objective isachieved by the recovery of suitable material. Where coastlines erode and degradean alternative to the construction of such hard forms of protection as rock armourand concrete walls is the placement on the shore of natural sands and gravels,perhaps recovered from where the eroded material has deposited. By nourishing orreplenishing the beach the natural balance is maintained. This type of work requiresdredgers able to place the sand on what is often a shallow and exposed coastline.The creation or enhancement of wetlands by using finer sized dredged material isanother potential beneficial use, as is the construction of offshore berms and islands.The second main objective of dredging is the creation of deeper water. If the naturaldepths in an area are increased for the first time the activity is known as ‘capitaldredging’, ‘development dredging’ or ‘new works dredging’. With capital dredging thefull range of geotechnical materials may be encountered. ‘Soft’ material, such assand, silt and clay, may well be mixed with much stiffer clays, boulders and in somecases rock. This activity covers the construction of new harbours, ports, basins,canals and waterways.
Deepening below the pre-existing bed levels can result in sediment being moved intothe deepened area by the actions of water currents and waves. The siltation then hasto be removed to maintain the required depth. This type of dredging is known as ‘maintenance dredging’. In some situations maintenance dredging may be requiredonly once every few years. In others it may be needed two or three times each year.And in others it may be a continuous operation throughout the year.Dredging for deeper water or greater cross-sectional area may be undertaken formany different reasons. The dredging may be part of a water supply or flood relief project. Dredgers can be used to construct reservoirs, deepen floodprone rivers andform irrigation channels. The storage capacity of reservoirs subject to siltation can bemaintained by dredging, and hydroelectric power projects can be assisted with theirwater supplies.The more common reason for seeking deeper water is to improve navigation. Thisapplies to ships and structures of all types, in the sea, in estuaries and in inlandwaterways. Navigational dredging is the most common form of dredging activity andis undertaken in ports, harbours and shipping channels throughout the world. Insome locations the dredging may be for vessels with deep draughts, such as large oiltankers, bulk carriers and container ships. In others it may be for coasters or inlandwaterway barges, fishing vessels, naval vessels, ferries or leisure craft. Some of thework may involve increasing the natural depths as ships become larger or new portsare developed. Much navigational dredging is the periodic removal of sedimentdeposited in the deepened channels. Maintenance dredging is a necessity for almostevery navigable waterway and port in the world.Civil engineering construction work is another activity that can create a demand fordredging. Here the nature of the work is not dissimilar to that undertaken on land.The creation and backfilling of trenches for pipelines and tunnels, and the forming of foundations for structures, are all dredging activities which have their counterparts inthe dry. The dredging is generally a specialist subsidiary activity to the mainconstruction with the work often being sub-contracted to the specialist dredgingcontractor.An expanding area of dredging activity is that termed remedial or ‘environmental’ dredging. There is increasing recognition of the amenity value of waterways,especially in urban areas. With many rivers, canals, drains and lakes being chokedwith all forms of rubbish, their clearance has presented new challenges to thedredging industry. Sometimes the sediment is contaminated with pollutants thatrequire special handling to minimize risk to the environment. This is particularly thecase in heavily industrialised ports or in rivermouths with industry upstream. Theclearance of industrial sludge lagoons and settlement ponds is another highlyspecialised area of dredging activity, which may even involve the use of a remote-controlled dredger.
b. The Dredging Industry
The many different reasons for dredging illustrate that it is not one single activity.The objectives and requirements can vary widely, as determined by the organizationwishing the dredging to be undertaken. For navigation dredging this organization isusually a port or harbour authority or a government department of some form.Reservoir dredging, river dredging and canal dredging are again usually undertaken

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