Land reclamation for a growing nation

Dredging and land reclamation is a booming business in the Gulf as countries across the GCC look to extend their coastlines to meet a growing demand for waterfront real estate. Zoe Naylor digs deep to find out just what is needed to land some of the biggest offshore island projects in the world.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  September 23, 2006

|~|138prod200.gif|~|Van Oord’s trailing suction hopper dredger ‘Rotterdam’ working on The World. The hoppers dredge the sea sand and discharge it either by dumping it through the bottom doors of the hopper, by rainbowing or pumping it ashore through a pipeline. |~|What do you do when you’re running out of natural land mass but still want somewhere to house large numbers of tourists and residents? The answer: create offshore islands and build waterfront developments using sand reclaimed from the sea. That’s exactly what many of the GCC countries are busy doing in a bid to keep pace with the high demand for prime waterfront property.

And it is keeping industry giants such as Van Oord, Jan De Nul, Dredging International and Boskalis Westminster, busier than they’ve ever been before. Dominated by Dutch and Belgian firms, the international dredging industry is being kept busy by several large-scale reclamation projects throughout the region – in particular; The World, the three Palms, Dubai Waterfront, the Pearl-Qatar and Durrat Al Bahrain.

Belgium’s Jan De Nul recently bagged one of the largest ever reclamation contracts for work on Nakheel’s Dubai Waterfront.
The firm has now begun work on the first seven islands to be reclaimed for the project. Located 35km south west of Dubai, bordering Abu Dhabi on the last remaining coastal waterfront of the emirate, Dubai Waterfront will comprise residential, retail, hotel, office and industrial facilities.

When completed it is expected to be the largest waterfront development of its kind in the world. Jan De Nul’s reclamation phase of the first 310ha island is worth more than US $200 million (AED734.5 million) and is scheduled for completion in 18 months’ time. The first offshore island represents about 15% of the entire Dubai Waterfront project, which will cover an area of approximately 2,300ha and take six years to finish.

Trailer suction hopper dredgers will be used on the first island to transport sand offshore approximately 20 miles and then ferry it towards the waterfront area, where it will be dumped or jetted into the reclamation area. More than 300 million m3 of sand and 12 million m3 of rock will be used to protect the seven islands.

Matt Joyce, managing director, Dubai Waterfront, says the project will require a vast amount of technical expertise: “The construction and reclamation of Dubai Waterfront is an incomparable logistics operation, which has attracted many highly experienced professionals. Meticulous project planning and research, coupled with the most efficient methods of construction, is being undertaken to ensure that the world’s largest waterfront development achieves its ambitious objectives and goals.”

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Bahrain’s largest planned residential, leisure and tourist resort, Durrat Al Bahrain, has reached a key milestone with completion of the land reclamation of the 12 islands that form the $3 billion resort city. This includes the completion of the five petal islands, six atoll islands and a stand-alone island formation that is set to house a five-star resort and water park.

A US-Bahraini consortium, Great Lakes Nass (a joint venture between Great Lakes Dredge and the Nass Group) undertook the $105 million dredging contract, which involved reclaiming approximately 6 million m2 of land from the sea. With the conclusion of dredging and reclamation on the islands, the Durrat Al Bahrain resort community has now taken the shape of the project’s masterplan, paving the way for the next phase of work on the development.

“The completion of the island clusters is an important stage of the project,” says Jassim Al Jawder, CEO, Durrat Al Bahrain.
“Working together with our partners and contractors we have now successfully laid the full foundation upon which we will establish a unique island in Bahrain. Reclamation work on the islands has taken place at a rapid rate and we have completed work on this aspect of the project in advance of initial targets.”

The Gulf’s large-scale reclamation projects call for a range of technical expertise, along with a vast and heavy-duty fleet that is up to the job. “For the reclamation of the islands a wide range of trailing suction hopper dredgers are being used – these range from a hopper capacity of 4,000m3 up to as much as 28,000m3,” says Jan Schaart, area manager for Van Oord in the Middle East.

The largest project Van Oord is currently working on in the region is Palm Deira, which together with its base, Deira Corniche, requires around 1.25 billion m3 of sand. Other major projects the Dutch firm is working on include The World, Palm Jumeirah (refurbishing beaches), Dubai Maritime City, North Bahrain New Town and New Doha International Airport.

“The hoppers dredge the sea sand from areas up to 40 miles from the mainland. They discharge either by dumping it through the bottom doors of the hopper, by means of rainbowing or pumping ashore through a pipeline,” explains Schaart. “On the land, bulldozers and cranes are used for the levelling of the land and all projects use digital GPS, which enables us to position sand and rock very accurately.”

On The World project, the following sequence of trailing suction hopper dredgers is used: in the first stage of the construction, sand was deposited to a height of 10m below sea level to lay the foundation of the continents on the seabed. Medium-size dredgers then raised the height to 7m below sea level, and smaller vessels brought the height to 5m below sea level.

Large-capacity trailer suction hopper dredgers use the rainbowing technique to bring the sand above sea level, and in the latter stages cutter suction dredgers will shape the individual islands, which rise 3m above the sea. Rock for the breakwaters and quay walls of the projects come from quarries in the eastern and northern parts of the UAE and are brought in by trucks or transported by road to the ports of Khor Khowarr and Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah.

From there, Van Oord is responsible for carrying out the sea transport of the rock to its various Dubai projects. “At present the fleet consists of 20 barges and 10 tugs capable of shipments in excess of 300,000 tonnes per week,” says Schaart. The rock is put in place using side stone dumping vessels and mooring pontoons equipped with cranes and wheel loaders to position the various rock layers. This will continue until late 2013 when Palm Deira will be completed.

According to Schaart, the main challenges when it comes to carrying out reclamation work in this part of the world is the scale and scope of the projects: “In these projects we deal with volumes that have never been handled before. For example, we transport approximately 3 million m3 of sand each week. With the development of the mega land reclamation projects such as Palm Deira, larger trailing suction hopper dredgers (of about 30,000m3 capacity) are being used to make the projects run as efficiently as possible.”

As with all construction projects in the region, speed of
completion is a key factor: “Tight planning makes it challenging to work on the projects here – often the client wants the projects ready quickly. Our in-house research department continuously focuses on innovation and improving efficiency of the vessels. Depending on the local circumstances – wave height and soil conditions, for example – equipment can be rebuilt or innovated for use on the project,” he adds. ||**||

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