Dredgers Are Opening The Channels To Trade
- Nov. 07 2013 00:00
Does the Russian coastline look familiar to you as a Dutchman?
Russia is a big country, but when I look at the St. Petersburg region it is quite low and swampy. The flood protecton barrier in St. Petersburg is very similar to the protection that we have built in Holland. The swamp leads to similar construction techniques and a lot of technology that we use, can be used here. The Far East and other regions in Russia have different characteristicsare.
What kind of services do you provide?
Traditionally Royal Boskalis Westminster is a dredging company, but through the acquisitions of SMIT and Dockwise the company has expanded into heavy transport, subsea installation and inspection, and repair and maintenance services, mainly for the offshore energy sector. It also performs harbour towage and terminal services though a strategic partner Smit Lamnalco in which Boskalis owns 50 percent. Through SMIT it also provides emergency response and salvage related services division. In the past SMIT helped lift the Kursk submarine.
With Dockwise, we recently won the contract to transport the Costa Concordia cruise ship in Italy aboard its largest vessel, the Dockwise Vanguard. Dockwise operates 25 semi-submersible vessels that can transport entire oil platforms.
How difficult is it to work in regions like the Russian Arctic?
There is not much around Yamal and we rely on Arkhangelsk and Murmansk to get materials in. Plus you have only 75 days of good weather to do your job because of ice formation, with no time for repairs, so you really have to thoroughly plan your activities. We have the same challenge in remote places in Australia or Africa.
We worked in 2006 and 2007 as the first western dredging company for the installation of pipelines in Varandey for Lukoil and in Baydaradskaya bay for Gazprom. These works are both on the west side of the Yamal peninsula and included dredging and filling the pipeline trenches under arctic conditions.
The formation of ice is mainly a logistical problem since we need to plan our works with enough over-capacity to be able to deal with any surprises Mother Nature can throw at us.
Boskalis has won a contract to build and dredge six kilometers of shipping channels and berths for the Bronka port facility in St. Petersburg. How is that progressing?
In September we signed a contract to dredge the shipping channel for the port. Over the last few years the quay walls for the port were built and we are now creating the territory within these walls. We are reclaiming 85 hectares of land this year and in the next two years will dredge the shipping channel and construct the berth pockets, dredging 16 cubic meters in total.
It is a Russian design. We do however cooperate with our client to use our international construction methods to complete the project as economically and quickly as possible, while still working within Russian regulations.
Didn't you also work with Russian designers on the dam and flood barrier in St. Petersburg?
This involved dredging the seabed and then building the rock wall that forms the dam and we built a tunnel that goes underneath the shipping channel, between 2007 and 2011.
It is not often that you can influence the design. But this time they wanted to speed up the process so we offered alternative construction solutions and that meant we had to work with the Russian designers. That way we finished it within budget and one year before the construction deadline.
Many of Russia's ports are not connected to the motorway or rail network. Can these be converted to commercial use?
Depending on location ports can be put to commercial use, but what we see now is that completely new ports are planned which best fit the existing infrastructure. An example is the Bronka Port which is located at the intersection of the St. Petersburg flood protection barrier where the highway and railroad infrastructure crosses. Other developments are the Taman port planned in the Black Sea and the Murmansk transport hub both of which involve a connection to the railway system.