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In the News:

On the frontlines of dredging techniques: Sand Winning from a Private Lake.

The activities of a newly formed dredging company in Lagos are opening the frontiers of dredging in the Nigerian industry today. Innovative Dredging & Contracting (IDC) hit the Nigerian dredging sector with a new 14-inch dredger in 2008 and for its first contract is reclaiming the swamps of a proposed development in the Lekki peninsular of Lagos Nigeria. In total, about two million cubic metres of sand is required to reclaim the entire land area of 203 hectares. The ingenuity of the project stems from the fact that all that sand has to come from two lakes to be created in the client’s land area.

There will be one big lake and a smaller one, all within the same property. Both lakes have a combined total area measuring 165,271 square metres. Projected depth for the two lakes for sand winning is 13m. After five months of operation, IDC has made 600,000 cubic metres of sand and spread same over approximately 30% land area; at an average thickness of 1.5m of sharp sand. A large part of the big lake has been dredged of huge amounts of sand while the smaller lake is due to be opened soon for sand mining.

In the short history of Nigerian dredging under record, IDC’s site superintendent Mr. Apobo and Operation Manager, Mr. Ojomu, concur that only the Osubi Airport grounds in Warri, Delta State, have had the rare privilege of being reclaimed from sand dug up several metres down from its immediate environs, far away from any flowing river or large lake. In Lagos, the project being executed by IDC is the first of its kind.

Solomon Obasuyi, President of IDC, is a US-based Nigerian engineer who came into the dredging business in 2006. DDH inquired from him how he decided to make the innovative approaches he used to achieve this particular project so far. He said he took time to attend training before starting work: an Ellicott seminar in Nigeria, another IHC seminar in Holland and a tutorial at Texas A & M University in Texas, where he did a short dredging course. In addition, he said, he surveyed the Nigerian environment pretty well before stepping out with the company.

There is no gainsaying the fact that his footprint at the project may become so conspicuous that others in Nigeria may try to copy the project design. The attraction in the method is the total freedom the dredge contractor enjoys from the intrusive activities of various regulators, government agencies, and the rest of the coterie of officialdom and host community people which usually swoop down on riverside dredging sites and cause incalculable disruptions to productivity. IDC has had no one knocking at its gate since the project started in 2008. The reason is simple: this project is located entirely in private property.

Overall however, this is an interesting dredging site to visit: several aspects of the dredging techniques are quaintly technological. For example, though a sand search report was done ab initio, at the client’s request, IDC had a German firm install a GPS ) on the dredger (which is essential as an extension of the eye and ear of the dredge master, relieving him from the demanding task and making the operation a far more efficient one. This transformed the tenor of the operation so that from the bridge, the dredge master can see down to the bottom of the lake and monitor the cutter suction activity, the total quantity of sand within reach, the depth reached by the ladder vis-à-vis the projected limit, the colour of the spoil being taken (all the sand types are colour-coded), how much cubic metres of sand has been taken and how much is left to be taken up from that spot, etc. To get started, the depths and side measurements guiding the sand winning is configured into the computer to work with the GPS and once the dredger is approaching any of the set limits, a colour code changes to alert the dredgemaster. The computer will display other colour codes to inform the dredgemaster of the changing sand types as the ladder digs deeper. Such computer graphics aid the maximum deployment of resources: dredging time is not wasted taking up unintended or useless material. Once a part of the lake is fully dredged up of the useful material, it turns reddish on the screen and remains reddish while the other untapped areas of the lake would be blue indicating where sand is still available, and even the probable quantity. So, once it’s time to reposition the dredger, the decision is firm and supported by the facts on the screen! According to Mr Obasuyi, the dredgemasters were trained to work with this new device and now control it themselves for the smoothness of the operation without the office coming in to supervise.

No doubt, this is the upper limit of efficiency for a Nigerian indigenous dredging contractor. It’s all the more wonderful because this is IDC’s first ever dredging job. According to the company’s operational log, the average monthly performance of the company against set target is 120,000 cubic metres. At this rate, it achieved its first milestone (600,000 cubic metres), three months ahead of schedule. If it maintains the current efficiency level, this startup company may be on its way to completing its contract at the project site possibly six months ahead of schedule or earlier – an impressive record for an indigenous company. Asked if IDC would repeat this method of dredging in all sites where it is engaged, Mr Obasuyi said it depends on the client’s specific requirements and the terms of the contract, stressing that his company was out to be a service provider working in tune with agreed references.

On the shore, it’s also interesting to see what takes place on the ground. Once a section of the sprawling acreage is demarcated for sand-filling, all the swamp, trees, foliage and other material clogging the space are collected by earthmoving machines and dumped in one corner. The ground is prepared and leveled, and a bund wall is put in place, with steel pipes for run-off water strategically placed. Then the discharge pipe from the dredger is moved to the enclosure. Soon huge jets of the dark slurry come cascading into the space and before a few days, the original black soil base is displaced by the golden crystals of sharp sand. Bulldozers and swamp buggies take their places, pushing and leveling the sand heap here and there… and the rest is level sandy ground, just the way the client wants it!

For this project, the quantity of black soil and swamp already pushed to that corner mentioned above has formed an impressive heap, a material DDH gathered the client plans to utilize in landscaping and aesthetics when the development is complete. And talking about aesthetics, what use will the lakes eventually be turned into? This is an interesting question which Mr Obasuyi successfully dodged, saying that only the client would know what he planned to do with them. But he said that embankments are definitely on the cards for such water bodies in the midst of human living quarters. He foresaw a beautiful combination of the lakes with other components to create something like waterfront residences.

This special focus on this project is a piece that will be enamoured of many dredge aficionados. In fact, while many aspects of the coverage promise good excitement to the inquisitive, Mr Obasuyi’s answers during our exclusive interview provided an anchor to understanding what makes IDC tick. Excerpts:

DDH: Who is IDC in Nigerian dredging industry today?

Obasuyi: Our Company, Innovative Dredging and Contracting (IDC), is a fully Nigerian indigenous company with affiliation to a Michigan, US-based firm. Our corporate office is located at No. 50 Itafaji Street, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos. We have a vision to be the leading and preferred company for dredging and its related activities in the region by constantly rendering professional and quality service in a cost-effective, efficient and safe manner to our clients. In all our dealings, we exhibit our values of commitment, efficiency, integrity, people relationships, professionalism, quality, responsibility, Safety, environment and value.

DDH: How did you position yourself with regards to equipment in use and their efficiency?

Obasuyi: Some of the equipment we use for our projects are a Dredge with the new C27 engine; a pipe-fusing machine that can fuse pipes from 10” diameter to 20” diameter which we have on site round the clock except when it is leased out; a 1,500m discharge pipe, 2 Dozers - D6R; an excavator – 325D, other supporting equipment. Our production efficiency is practically at 100%. This high productivity is as a result of the following reasons. Firstly, we own a brand new dredge with a C27 engine – the C27 engine is the first of its kind in Nigeria with a production capacity of 5000m 3/day. We use air- and water-tight floating and shore pipelines with well designed fitted flanges and collar systems. We have a very good operation and site management team and our people are very seasoned, experienced and proactive workers.

DDH: How have you coped with emergencies and of breakdowns?

Obasuyi: Generally, we have been able to cover most possible eventualities that may occur at our site. Firstly, we have a large stock of spare parts for all our equipment to cover any possible breakdowns and in the event that we run out of stock, our affiliate US-based company comes to our aid in air freighting parts to us. However, we rarely experience breakdowns because we constantly carry out preventive maintenance and all the manufacturer’s manuals for our equipment are used religiously in the preventive maintenance proceedings. 

DDH: What of your spare parts inventory build up?

Obasuyi: As I said before, we have a stock pile of spare parts for eventualities that may occur and we have a dealership registration with CAT for easy accessibility to spare parts. We also track availability of our spare parts through the spare parts list which we constantly update as the parts are used. For instance, we have a brand new pump in stock even though we are looking at another 2 or 3 years before we might have a problem with the present one in use.

DDH: What is your organizational set up like?

Obasuyi: We have a simple organization set up to ensure smooth, efficient and effective running of all our operations. There is the management team and the work force. The management team is made up of the President/CEO, the board of directors and the operations manager. The work force is made up of the project managers, the site superintendents and logistics personnel. All the personnel in the work force report to the operations manager.

DDH: How do you operate your international linkage with your US parent company? Can you describe a scenario where there was such a cooperation?

Obasuyi : Let me give you an example. We had a situation once where a part was broken (the fuel filter housing), which we had to fly in from the States. We were looking for it in Nigeria and as soon as it became apparent that it was unavailable in Nigeria ....


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1st Quarter 2009



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