When not all the eggs in one basket

The global market of hydrotechnical engineering is setting in motion by mechanisms such as international trade, population growth, energy consumption and climate change. All these factors in recent years had a period of steady growth. In July 2008, energy prices reached unprecedented heights that seemed to leave no doubt about the prospects of the sector that gains from the numerous projects that serve the oil and gas and port industries.

These positive market conditions have changed radicaly in the last quarter of 2008. The economic downturn has seriously grieved almost all sectors of the maritime industry. However, for companies that engaged in dredging and hydrotechnical engineering, their inconspicuous activities, which are rarely reported in marine publishing, is still active and it seems suffers not so much from the global recession problems. Naturally, the overall picture for these companies doesn’t look quite safely today. Several projects are postponed - such as deepening and widening the approach channel of the African port in Mombasa. Some projects, such as the establishment of waterworks and dredging in Punta Kolonet (Bahia California, Mexico), are postponted for better times... But still there are many reasons to suggest that better times won’t take long to wait, for hydrotechnic engineers at least.

"Big Four" companies involved in hydrotechnical engineering, is represented by Dutch «Boskalis» and «Van Oord», and Belgian «DEME» and «Jan de Nul». In fact, it’s not surprising that the world's largest hydrotechnical companies are based in the small Holland and Belgium. Just remember that almost 40% of the same Netherlands were reclaimed from the sea.

Demand for dredging depends on several factors, as mentioned above, not least on how rapidly increases the volume projects related to production and transport of hydrocarbons. Boskalis has already secured three "gas" contracts in Europe and the Middle East valued at 100 million euros. Two of them relate to the project Nord Stream, and suggest laying two lines of 1,220-kilometer gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. In the Baltic Boskalis will work with the Tideway company. Partners should lower to the seabed 320000 t stone in order to align and stabilize it for the subsequent pipe laying. Near the German coast the partner of Boskalis is a Rohde Nielsen company. We are talking about digging a 23 km trench, in which the pipe will be laid. However, the fate of the "Nord Stream" is highly dependent on several factors, including political, that’s why it’s too early to congratulate the company Boskalis.

The third contract is associated with laying 7-km pipeline trench, which will connect the offshore field of Shaphan with Saudi Arabia.

Van Oord has also signed an important Middle East contract that provides design and construction works, as well as the logistics of the oil project in Abu Dhabi. It is assumed three pipe thread offshore laying in the emirate of Fujairah with 13 km total length.

Naturally, the most important factor in ensuring a company engaged in hydrotechnic engineering work is the need to ensure the safety of ship calls. This factor is significant when port is working under normal conditions, but its importance is growing significantly when it’s happens something like natural disaster in the Brazilian port of Itajai, where flash floods washed away or severely damaged major infrastructure sectors. One of the berths has been completely destroyed, the other was permanently incapacitated, and the depth of the approach channel, on which the container capacity in the port maintenance, decreased from 11 m to 7.1 m. A consortium under the Chinese contractor Shanghai Dredging leadership led dredging " emergency mode "to help the port return to normal activities.

Ports’ construction and reconstruction works – one more source of contracts for hydrotechnic engineers, and we can’t fail to mention the project Maasvlakte 2 in Rotterdam. Boskalis and Van Oord are working here hand in hand, after they signed a contract for 1,1 billion euros last year, related to the development of new port areas. The two companies also teamed up in a joint venture, named Combinatie Delflandse Kust and now are engaged in strengthening the coastline. The Netherlands has identified 10 problem areas along the coast, requiring the implementation of such works to protect from the effects of projected changes in the profile of the waves, sea levels and strength of prevailing winds in relation to climate change.

Last year, Dredging International, part of the DEME Group announced new contracts worth about 200 million euros for projects in the region of the Middle East oil fields. However, the Belgians don’t forget about their native Europe. In particular, in August 2009, a group in partnership with Laing O'Rourke won the tender for the work at London Gateway Port. The project will cost about 500 million euros. It seems, DEME was not affected by the global economic storm. In the order book of the company today are contracts for an amount more than 2 billion euros. What helps the company? As its representative Hubert Fiers said in an interview «Fairplay», «projects, which are under consideration now, and those on the implementation of which we already work are very diversified, both by its nature and geographically. Dredging International Business is divided between works that require capital investment and maintenance work existing infrastructure". Capital investments required for projects of territories development and artificial lands inwashing. This sector has felt the first impact of the global crisis. On the other hand, "supporting” works must be carried out regardless the condition of the world and national economies. So, the old principle of "not putting all your eggs in one basket" perfectly helps mentioned companies to stay afloat. Of course, some projects may be delayed, the extent of their implementation may be trimmed, but no one dares to give them up.

In the Middle East, the region that has saved a lot of money during the "oil fever", here the emphasis was on capital investments and large-scale projects accordingly. What is happening today? As far as known, none of the customers refused the project yet, however, some companies wants now to "put on the brakes". Private projects related to real estate transactions, are especially vulnerable during the financial turmoil, but the order book of DEME has a little similar projects. As for the projects in which funding is guaranteed by the state, the Middle East is exactly that region where, at least the part of states can afford it. And who should be interested in it, if not the governmental structures?

Speaking about hydrotechnical engineering, dredging, it’s impossible not to mention the project of global scale, without exaggeration. In March 2008, Dredging International received a contract to carry out engineering works on the Panama Canal (Panama Canal Authorities, ACP). The contract is worth 117.5 million USD.

Panama Canal’s expansion isn’t just the largest construction project in Latin America today, it is a gigantic dredging project with numerous components. The total cost of canal’s reconstruction will be 5.256 billion USD. After completion, the capacity of this waterway will almost double, new channels will be created and existing one will be widened and deepened. In addition, the cascade of locks, which will be able to accept container ships with a capacity of 12,000 TEU, class "Suezmax " class tankers, "Cape-size" class bulkers, will be three-staged, only that will cost 2.7 billion USD for investors. The volume of earthwork will require excavation of 46 million cubic meters of ground and rocks on the Pacific coast. Absolutely new channel length of 6.7 km and width of  218 m will be created. The new channel will run parallel to the existing - through new gateways, passing by Miraflores and Pedro Miguel that are operated now. Extracted stones and soil will be used in the construction of a dam locks works.

In contrast to the current project, the construction of the Panama Canal, carried out in 1903-1914, was mainly earthworks,  dredging wasn’t a critical element.

According the contract Dredging International must produce the dredging of the Pacific entrance to the canal. Also, they will expand the 14-kilometer canal to a minimum of 225 meters. The depth of the channel (at low tide) should be at least 15.5 m. "This project, the first in Panama to Dredging International, in fact, it is our largest project in both Americas," - said to «Fairplay» Hugo Flieger manager in Dredging International in Latin America.

The company Boskalis (Royal Boskalis Westminster NV) in 2008 earned 249.1 million euros. The total sum of contracts concluded by the company last year amounted to 2.3 billion Euros. Now the company's order book contains contracts totaling 3.4 billion Euros. As CEO Peter Berdovsky said "2008 was the best year in our history ... We were able to reap the fruits of the strategy that we followed in previous years." Today the financial position of Boskalis are very strong, there is every reason to believe that the company will be able to finance the planned investments (about 250 million euros per year) in the next two or three years, using its own resources. It’s particularly important when bank credits are limited.

Among the projects that are implemented by the company now, should be mentioned dredging, land reclamation and other hydrotechnical works in the St. Petersburg complex of protective structures. Boskalis won three tenders, conducted on different types of work in 2006-2008. First, the company won the right to build the new Kronstadt ship fairway. In July 2007, the consortium of the company won the tender for the completion of the dam D-3 and the southern part of the tunnel, in 2008 dredging under jumpers navigation openings C-1 began.

Currently, the company continues to work on the contract of 2007, completion of which was to be held in 2012, in fact, they are planned to be completed by mid-2010.

Now Boskalis is involved in many projects related to oil and gas in various parts of the world. A lot of work is planning in the Middle East, Singapore, Australia and Africa.

Van Oord also works in Russia. In 2006-2007 they helped the company "Rosmorport" with the constructing a new cruise terminal in St. Petersburg’s port. Dredging the approach channel and the port waters were carried, as well as excavation work for the development of new port areas in an area of ​​120 hectares.

The company Nakheel, developer of Dubai, wanted to organize a world-class tourist service in this oil emirate. Palm Jumeirah - the most ambitious construction projects ever realized, artificial formation, on which are now hotels, offices, villas and entertainment facilities in the first class and constantly modernized beaches.

Van Oord started construction in August 2001. Its part of the work - sand-wash - should be provided with a jeweler's precision as elaborate design breakwater’s line was to be observed without fail.

Company paned out incredible 1 billion cubic meters of sand and has built the breakwater. Exactly to this company Dubai is obliged to presence the eighth wonder of the world from their shores, which you can admire even from space. An important fact is that the work was completed by four months ahead of schedule.

Jan De Nul Group can brag about participation in the development of a container terminal in the Jebel Ali’s port. In addition, the company dug a trench under the quay wall, they also build the breakwater, mounds of rock placement and embankments with total length of 9 km, it took 2.5 million tons of stone, 8 million tons of soil. The contract for the first phase of construction a new container terminal was built and the floating breakwater length of 1.7 km.

Another Jan De Nul’s project - deepening the approach channel to the main port of Southampton to 12.60 meters under contract with Associated British Ports

Tightly packed order book and plans to expand the existing fleet is a natural combination, which promises bright prospects of listed companies, in it’s turn.

DEME announced its intention to spend 250 million euros for the construction of three new vessels - part of the program, which will increase the fleet to 15 units by 2012.

Meanwhile, laying one of the four large self-propelled dredgers company Jan de Nul recently held at the Croatian shipyard Uljanik Brodogradiliste. Completion of the vessel «Ibn Batutta» is planned later this year.

Not only the company's fleet engaged in dredging grows, the size of the courts themselves is increasing. Recently Launched Van Oord’s «Goliath» is quite up to its name, it’s the world's largest bucket dredger. The new vessel is a part of the company's fleet renewal, which also includes the construction of dredge bucket plotter capacity 32,000 m3 / h named «Vox Dubai».

The world's largest dredger bucket-drifter is «Cristobal Colon», owned by Jan de Nul, its capacity 46,000 m3 / hour and tests began in March this year. This year, the ship will join its «sister» - «Leiv Eiriksson».

Not only the company's fleet increases, but also dredgers themselves. The Boskalis’ dredge «Queen of the Netherlands» finished the planned dredging of the approach channel to the Melbourne’s Port. In November it was sent to Singapore, where cut into two pieces, and then lengthened by 50 meters, which increased its capacity from the current 23,400 m3 / h to 35,000 m3 / h. In March 2009, it re-entered the system.

I would like to think that at least a part of the world business will remain in the current difficult times, using the already rather worn-out metaphor, "an island of stability." Maybe those fortunate indeed to be hydraulic engineering? Maybe those lucky will be hydrotechnics indeed? Maybe diversification of activities, that's typical for these companies, is the key to survival in any crisis, even the deepest one?

Source of information: portsukraine.com