Expanding the Suez Canal: Doing the Undoable

Ashraf Ghazy of the Damietta Port Authority underlines the scale and success of the ongoing Suez Canal expansion.

Expansion of the Suez Canal (SC), which started in August 2014, to be completed just a year later, has a global standing as one of the world’s great mega-projects.

Four years after completion of the scheme, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) can now reflect on the benefits developed for world trade, as well as the success of the financial model developed for funding the US$12 billion project.

Established in 1956, the SCA is an autonomous public authority of a juristic character. It reports directly to Egypt’s Prime Minister and is empowered to administer the Canal's affairs independently without being restricted to the laws and the systems of the government.

SCA issues and enforces all regulations necessary for safe and smooth navigation, with an independent budget governed by commercial project regulations.

Port Partnerships in Practice

Two trends have defined container shipping in the past decade. To start with, bigger and bigger ships were built at an unprecedented pace and the result was systemic overcapacity, which triggered various consolidations among shipping companies. The second is that port authorities and terminal operators have been faced with major challenges owing to this development. Upgrading an existing quay wall to accommodate new gantry crane models, for example, requires much more time for preparation and construction than the construction of an 18,000 TEU ship. 

How to Reduce Opex Costs for RTG Terminals

Conventional Rubber Tyred Gantry cranes (RTGs) consume 2 to 2.5 liter diesel per container move. Consequently a container terminal with a throughput of 1 million TEU consumes 2 million to 2.5 million liters of diesel per year. This drives many operators to look for suitable power supply alternatives for this type of crane, in order to reduce diesel consumption and thus emissions. Conductix-Wampfler has been converting RTGs into electrified RTGs (E-RTGs) since 2006. The converting process involves shutting down the diesel genset and powering the RTG with electric power directly from the power grid. E-RTGs typically use 2.5 to 3.5 kWh electrical power per container move. 

New Suez Canal Project: A Logistics Journey

The original Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and it was and still remains one of the greatest feats of the maritime industry. The canal allowed ships to travel more directly between Asia and Europe by reducing the sea voyage distance by about 7,000km (4,300 miles). It was wide only for one-way traffic.

About 150 years later, the Egyptian government realised the need to increase capacity in the canal. On August 5, 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) unveiled new plans for an additional lane to allow the transit of ships in both directions over a greater length of the canal.

The New Suez Canal Project was aimed at improving the country’s economy. The second lane would reduce waiting times for transiting ships, facilitate traffic in two directions and increase the number of ships allowed in the waterway. SCA expects revenues to increase from US$5.3 billion at present to US$13.2 billion by 2023 due to the additional lane.

The client had one major stipulation – all the works had to be completed within a year. Due to the tight project deadline and the sheer amount of work, the contract was awarded by SCA to six dredging companies from two consortia. The Challenge Consortium comprised of National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) from Abu Dhabi; Dutch dredging companies, Royal Boskalis Westminster (Boskalis) and Van Oord; and Jan De Nul NV (subsidiary of Jan De Nul Group) from Belgium. The second consortium ….

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Free Paper: The Operational Philosophy of Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a port of pioneers. It always has been. It has a long tradition of applying ground-breaking technologies and processes. From the 'crazy' plan of Pieter Caland in 1862 to construct the New Waterway, to the high tech Euromax Terminal and the world-leading information exchange system Portbase. Innovation flows through the Port of Rotterdam like the water of the New Meuse which runs through the city.

Innovation has done us well. The port has grown to become the largest in Europe with an annual transhipment of some 450 million tonnes per annum and nearly 30,000 vessels mooring per year. This is the result of the constant effort to find how things can be done more efficiently, better and more sustainably. We want to stay ahead of the pack and be able to make a difference; this is why Rotterdam remains the ‘smartest’ port in the world.

Family, friends and future

Recently, we started 'The Smartest Port’; a robust, cohesive, border-expanding programme. Through The Smartest Port we facilitate, initiate and spur on innovation, together with businesses and knowledge institutions. Besides that, we want to ramp up innovation within our own Port Authority; therefore the programme has three mainstays: family, friends and future.

Innovation Forum

Through our ‘family’ initiative we innovate together with companies that are based at the Port of Rotterdam. The most concrete part…

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The New Era of Mega-Ports

Ports have been ever-present throughout human civilisation, yet only in recent times have we witnessed the emergence of mega-ports. Mega-ports can be considered truly indispensable nodes of the current globalised economic system. But what are mega-ports, who needs them, how does a port become one of them, and should we be glad about them; these are the questions that this paper seeks to address.

What is a mega-port?

There are three dimensions to a megaport: the cargo volume it handles, the economic value it represents, and the land and water surface it utilises. Therefore, a mega-port can be ‘mega’ because of large throughput, economic force or sheer physical size. These dimensions can go together, but do not necessarily. For example, there are ports that handle a lot of cargo but do not generate that much economic value, because they do not have trade clusters (such as Singapore), industrial estates (such as Rotterdam) or thriving waterfronts (such as Barcelona) connected to the port. A mega-port has the power to contribute up to a third of a regional economy. There is a large variety in the size of port areas; some ports have large logistical and industrial areas integrated in or connected to a port, and some mega-ports take up to a third of the land surface of the city they are serving. I would suggest that only the ports that combine these three characteristics could be considered true mega-ports…

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Integrating adaptive environmental management into dredging projects

The Central Dredging Association (CEDA) is committed to environmentally responsible management of dredging projects and their recent position paper outlines concepts of integrating Adaptive Management (AM) for the enhancement of the environment into dredging activities (inclusive of placement / disposal / reclamation). This paper provides a summary of the Position Paper


Dredging projects are often permitted with license conditions or regulations based on assessment of potential environmental effects. In some cases strict thresholds might be applied to assure environmental performance with levels deemed to be acceptable, based on findings of impact assessments. In other cases less clear environmental limits are specified: sometimes due to uncertainty about effect on and responses by nature, caused by inability to fully appreciate and judge environmental conditions and potential project effects; or for other reasons such as sharing responsibilities and risk.

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 on a continuous or regular basis for the duration of (and after) the project, in order to keep project expectations and implementation requirements more manageable. This sequence of activities is jointly understood as ‘Adaptive Management’ (AM). AM helps to achieve…

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Dredging the Mersey for Liverpool2 container port

Liverpool, on the River Mersey in northwest England, has been a major port for almost 300 years and the area has undergone many changes during that time to accommodate trends in shipping. The Port of Liverpool is already the UK’s largest transatlantic port and is home to one of the UK’s biggest container terminals. Now Peel Ports, as owner and operator, is investing £300m (US$500 million) to ensure the Port of Liverpool can accommodate around 95% of the world’s container fleet, especially with the widened Panama Canal opening in 2015. The overall construction programme has several main features: • A quay wall, 854m long, with a quay surface at 12.7m aCD, between the southwest corner of the Royal Seaforth Container Terminal and along the low water edge of an intertidal area known as Seaforth Triangle; • Dredging in front of the quay wall (to 16.5m bCD) to create a 62m-wide berth pocket that will allow post- Panamax vessels to berth in this area; • Reclamation of approximately 12ha of intertidal area behind this new wall (using approximately 2.2 million cubic metres of material dredged from the berth pocket and approach channel deepening works); and • Dredging areas of the approach channel that are shallower than 8m bCD down to this depth, with the total area for deepening around 3.71km2 and an average 1.1m depth of dredge…

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Ground Improvement Techniques

Port facilities see an increase in demand on nearly a daily basis. This demand is fuelled by the constantly changing role of international shipping in the global economy. For example, new shale oil plays and tar sands in North America may lead to the export of energy from the US; ten years ago the idea of energy exports from the US was unimaginable. Another change in global shipping is the increase in use of intermodal transport. This article discusses a variety of ground improvement and specialty foundation solutions that can support bulkheads, heavy storage warehouses, grain silos, large-diameter tanks or any other port structure. These solutions are designed to efficiently provide a foundation-related maintenance-free operation for the design life of the structure, and are well-suited to the poor ground conditions often associated with port and shipping facilities.

Foundation solutions for difficult ground conditions

Some of the worst soil conditions are concentrated around navigable bodies of water. The Mississippi Delta and the US Gulf Coast are elementary cases of poor soil conditions in areas historically utilised for shipping. The ground conditions improve further up the Mississippi River; however, as the ground conditions become more suitable for building large heavy structures, the likelihood of a seismic event also increases. Today’s ground improvement and specialty foundation…

UK Dredging expands technical capabilities

UK Dredging (UKD), Associated British Ports’ (ABP) dredging arm, has moved from strength to strength since its establishment in 1996. Established to meet ABP’s maintenance-dredging requirements and undertake third-party works, UKD, based at ABP’s Port of Cardiff, is supported by a flotilla of six dedicated vessels – three trailing-suction dredgers, ‘UKD Bluefin,’ ‘UKD Marlin’ and ‘UKD Dolphin,’ two dredging-support and buoy-handling vessels, ‘UKD Seahorse,’ and UKD ‘Sealion,’ and one self-propelled hopper dredger, ‘Cherry Sand.’ In addition to dredging services, the subsidiary operates a hydrographic surveying department, specialising in port, coastal and inland surveys across the UK.

UKD has seen solid growth over the past 18 months, winning more than 30 contracts since the beginning of 2004. At present, the division is heavily involved in ABP’s Immingham Outer Harbour project. The project – a £35 m riverside terminal being built on the back of a 25-year agreement with DFDS Tor Line and opening in 2006 – required the dredging of alluvium, sand and gravels, and the underlying inter-bedded glacial clays before construction could begin. The first phase of the dredging operation was completed in June 2005, with the removal of over two million cu m of sand and gravels. The second phase will see UKD removing an estimated 550,000 cu m of glacial clays by October 2005. UKD’s six vessels have played a prominent role in the dredging process and have been supported by two third-party dredgers, ‘Seine,’ a cutter-suction dredger and ‘Ajax R,’ a bucket-ladder dredger, and two split-hopper barges, ‘Trud R’ and ‘Magni R.’

The recent purchase of a Real Time Kinematic – Global Positioning Satellite (RTK-GPS) system, designed to provide highly accurate three-dimensional positioning, has meant that UKD’s involvement with the Immingham Outer Harbour project is not only limited to water-borne operations. The portable RTKGPS system was used to accurately map the extensive mudflats on which the terminal will stand. Such an analysis has previously proved to be extremely difficult, given the obvious danger posed by the mudflats. Yet a novel approach was adopted by Gareth Stevens, one of UKD’s hydrographic surveyors, to overcome this problem; Gareth secured the RTK-GPS equipment to a hovercraft, which was able to skim across the mud to accurately gauge the depth of the flats.

Following UKD’s judicial use of the RTK-GPS system, initial estimates of the total volume of material to be dredged were reduced by approximately 10,000 cu m. The team has also utilised quad bikes and RTK-GPS technology to map an area of reclaimed land at the Cardiff Sports Village, a £700 m leisure, residential and commercial complex, situated at Cardiff Bay. Steve Johns, UKD’s Hydrographic Survey Manager, explained the unorthodox measures adopted by UKD’s hydrographic survey department:

“The RTK-GPS system has expanded the scope of UKD’s hydrographic surveying service enormously. Whereas conventional GPS systems could accurately produce two-dimensional maps, RTK-GPS systems can produce incredibly detailed threedimensional charts. The chief benefit of such a system is that it is able to carefully predict the volume of material to be dredged – with obvious cost benefits for UKD. The unusual modes of obtaining results indicate the team’s ability to operate under difficult circumstances, and different types of vehicle!”

While UKD remains committed to ABP’s developments on the Humber, growth in other regions remains strong, with a number  of third-party contracts being awarded to UKD, including a threeyear term contract with the Port of Bristol. The contract, signed in early 2005, has tasked UKD with the maintenance dredging of the port’s dock entrances at Portbury and Avonmouth, and was secured following the completion of trial dredges at the port by UKD Dolphin and UKD Bluefin. Following the dredging trials at Bristol, UKD Bluefin spent five weeks in early 2005 on charter to the Danish dredging contractor Rohde Nielsen, conducting maintenance dredging for the Portuguese Ports of Setubal, south of Lisbon, and Leixoes, northern Portugal’s largest port. Not to be outdone by her younger sibling, the first half of the year saw UKD Marlin carrying out maintenance dredging at the Port of Poole, and undertaking remedial works at the Tetney Monobuoy, in the Humber Estuary.


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