Hopper dredgers are getting larger in response to recent intensification of competition in the international dredging market. However, the hardening of the South East Asian economic collapse means new 'super dredgers' may be pushed to find enough work.
Dutch dredging contractor Royal Boskalis Westminster took delivery of the Queen - at 23,350m3, the biggest to date - in mid-July. With a maximum dredging depth of 120m, the vessel will primarily gather fine sands to meet demand for 'wet infrastructure' and new land. A Boskalis spokesman said Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong are important intended markets.
Super dredgers are in part a response to local conditions in east Asian waters. Dredging International head of research and development Stefan van Dycke says there is frequently little dredgable material close to the site. It is more time and cost efficient to import sands from remote sites in bulk.
Dredging International has commissioned a 17,000m3 sister ship to its suction hopper dredger, Pearl River from IHC shipyard in the Netherlands. The company has been considering building a 30,000m3 vessel, but is waiting to see how the international market develops.
Ships with a shallower draft (Pearl River is 10m deep against the Queen's 13.5m) make them more versatile and better suited to the estuary and river dredging projects common in Europe. Boskalis points out, however, that as well as dredging for reclamation, the Queen offers scope for specialist offshore work such as dredging pipeline trenches.
The hull of Boskalis' Queen was floated in February and superstructure work and fit-out on the $74.5M ship was carried out at the Wilton Fijenoord yard, Schiedam, the Netherlands. Deep sea trials and equipment tests off Rotterdam and the UK coast, finished in early July completed the Queen's pre-commission period.