Dredging flexibility earmarked for the emerald isle

23 Jan 2008

A new concept dredger that combines a multi-purpose excavator arm with inert pumping capabilities has been earmarked for dredging operations at Fenit harbour, Co Kerry, Ireland.

The new multi-functional dredger design, which evolved from a request for a flexible dredger to be used in Iraq in order to keep supply channels open to an oil refinery, is being considered by Ireland's GMS Ltd for a multitude of dredging jobs around the 'emerald isle'. Speaking to Port Strategy, GMS managing director Adrian O'Connell says that his company will put forward a tender this December for the contract to dredge some 250,000t of silt and sand from Fenit's inner harbour area, where the marina is located, and to deepen the fishing harbour area main sea port. The main port at Fenit is used by Liebherr Container Cranes based in nearby Killarney as a major export hub and the dredging work would allow the port to accommodate larger vessels, allowing Liebherr to export more of its products.

Should GMS be successful in winning the contract then it will look at the possibility of the design because "the multi-purpose nature of the dredger makes it ideal for smaller dredging companies who are looking to perhaps purchase just one dredger, hoping to use to for a variety of working conditions", says Dr Sarah Baulk, export manager for Italdraghe, the Italian dredger builder behind the design.

"Nothing has been finalised so far, although we believe that Mr O'Connell is planning to visit Italdraghe sometime this month."

The one-man operation concept is afforded by way of a state-of-the-art cabin-controlled function that features an innovative portable radio-controlled unit to allow the operator to carry out a wide range of dredging and manoeuvring operations from any location onboard the vessel.

This has clear advantages for single-manned dredgers as it gives the operator full control of the dredger when outside the cabin. It is even possible to start up and close down the vessel's engines, engage the clutch and move the stationing poles using the remote-control device.

Additional flexibility is provided by the dredger excavator arm which has been designed to take a range of different interchangeable tools. According to the environmental working conditions and the type of material being dredged or removed, the arm can be fitted with exactly the right tool for the job.

For example , if fitted with a cutter head, the excavator arm can be used for standard dredging operations, with the option of the dredged materials being discharged at a distance.

The excavator arm can also be fitted with other special purpose tools, such as hydro-cultivators and large cutting collectors (of up to 3m in length) for removing small bushes and shrubbery as is often required, say, in the reclamation and maintenance of nature and conservation water parks. It may also be used in conjunction with disc skimmers for removing surface sea water pollutants, pumping the collected waste into special on-board tanks.

However, GMS and Mr O'Connell aim to discuss a bespoke design with the builder that incorporates a normal basket cutter head at the bow with the Italdraghe technology aft ship. "There is potential to create a JCB version of the dredger", says Mr O'Connell.

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