A very dynamic discipline
The website dredgers.nl contains vessel specs, project details, photos and news. The Damen Dredging Journal met up with its creator; long-time dredging expert Bert Visser. Here he talks about the early days of the Internet and how the dredging sector (and thus the website content) has changed over the years.
Mr Visser’s first encounter with the dredging world occurred when, as an eight-year old, he visited a model of Rotterdam’s plans for what we now know as Europort and the Maasvlakte. This experience had a profound effect on him; influencing his educational path and subsequent career. The fact that dredging differs from other engineering disciplines was perhaps one of the key reasons for this: “With steel or cement constructions you make fixed calculations,” he explains. “But dredging is different because there is more interaction between the sediment and the structure that you are building. It’s very dynamic.”
The first foundations of his website were laid during Mr Visser’s educational studies and accompanying apprenticeships. He collected a large amount of technical information about dredging vessels and notable projects. This continued throughout his career at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.
“At that time I stored all this information in shoeboxes. And then, years later, I decided to set up the website to serve as a database for dredging vessels and projects.” Back in those early days of the Internet, many website names were still associated with the name of the client’s Internet Service Provider. However, as the Internet began to flex its muscles, Mr Visser picked the URL of dredgers.nl; a name still much sought after to this day.
16 years on, and the website has grown to include photo galleries and dredging-related news items as well as technical specifications of more than 1,300 different dredgers. Owning and maintaining a website that sees 7,000 visitors per month is more than just a back-office pastime: “This is more of a professional hobby – requiring serious interest,” he says.
Many facets of dredging
The website has seen some substantial changes over the years. In terms of content, there have also been many developments: “Modern dredging has become more complex. 20 or 30 years ago, for instance, it was a case of moving sediment from A to B. Rock was dredged with this type of equipment, and sand with that type. Today, a lot more attention is paid to the whole situation – the bigger picture. Of course, different companies use different strategies or techniques, but the progress has been in making operations more efficient.”
Progress marches on
Perhaps more importantly than technical developments, the attitude to dredging has evolved: “After the devastating flood of 1953, the predominant way of thinking was that the sea was our enemy,” he explains. “But this has gradually changed to a situation where we try to create an optimal balance for ourselves and our surroundings.”
Interestingly, however, this changed attitude has also made the dredging process more efficient. Contributing to this is the economically successful philosophy of accomplishing multiple results from just one action. A harbour maintenance project in the Port of Eemshaven [north of the Netherlands] provides a suitable example: “This involves dredging a navigation channel for the port, and utilising the dredged material to create a tidal marsh nature area. Sediment is being moved from where it has a negative value to create two situations with a positive value.”
This ‘killing two birds with one stone’ concept – increasing the intrinsic value of a sediment or situation through the action of dredging – has been a major change that the industry has seen over the years. Whatever progress the dredging industry sees next, dredgers.nl will be there to record them.