Essential facts for successful maritime infrastructure projects: site investigations



Constantijn Dolmans, Secretary General, IADC, The Hague, The Netherlands


How would you describe a successful maritime infrastructure project?

It may seem obvious: A project that fulfils its function in a sustainable way, meeting the requirements of all stakeholders, where everyone is satisfied; the client that gets new improved infrastructure at reasonable life-time costs; the consultants and the contractors who offer their professional input at a fair price; a society that can base its social and economic welfare on the infrastructure created.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life were that easy? In practise there are still many challenges and one of them is communication. For a project to be considered ‘successful’ it is a prerequisite that all parties are well informed, understand each other and work on a basis of mutual trust.

Providing effective information to all those involved is an essential element in building this trust. But in today’s world where busy people are inundated with an overload of information and have little time to process it, information is often a burden and certainly it is anything but easy to sort through. Trying to cut through the overload, IADC decided to publish a series of concise and easy-to-read leaflets that give an effective overview of essential facts about specific aspects of dredging and maritime construction.

These new leaflets are aimed at stakeholders who need a quick understanding of a particular issue, a kind of management summary on subjects relevant to maritime infrastructure projects. For those needing more indepth or detailed information, a reference list of other literature is provided.  These leaflets are part of an on-going effort to support clients and others in understanding the fundamental principles of dredging and maritime construction. This article is the first leaflet of IADC’s ‘FACTS ABOUT… Site Investigations.’

Why do site investigations matter?

Dredging is often described as an industry where you are working in the dark, at depths usually only accessible to fish. The dredging crew cannot see what they are  doing, and neither can the client or the public.

Yet the risks of encountering ‘unforeseen’ material are not only inconvenient, but also time-consuming and invariably costly. Accurate preparation to limit as much as possible the unforeseen is the foundation for a job well done, on time and within budgeted costs. With today’s technologies, this is a feasible goal. As much light as possible should be shed on the ‘ground’ prior to the start of a dredging project. A well designed site investigation informs both the contractor and the client.

It reduces risks and uncertainties and enables all involved in the project to prepare properly. Site investigations are the first step toward a successful project and satisfaction on all sides and that is why they matter.

When is a site investigation necessary?

The simple answer is ‘always.’ In some dredging and maritime construction projects information will already be available and the contractor and client can depend on previous investigations.

In most cases, however, thorough inspection of the entire area should be a high priority as previous investigations may not be wholly representative of the conditions which may be encountered. One of the most frequent causes of delay and additional unexpected, unbudgeted costs is an inadequate site investigation.

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