News Stories in 4th Quarter 2006 Edition of DDH Magazine
Van Oord continues to dredge its way to success in Nigeria!
An Interview with Managing Director of Van Oord Nigeria Limited
The year 2006 smiled on Van Oord’s fortunes in Nigeria as it landed the dredging of the Calabar Port, a project the Honourable Minister of Transport expressed great prospects for. Though many may not know this but Van Oord has been old in the business of dredging in Nigeria, at least since the past forty years! But then it was operating in the name of its affiliate, Ham Dredging Nigeria Ltd, which in 1963 dredged of Bonny Bar in the then Eastern Region. In any case, the European company and others like it seem to have the hang of the profession. What is the history? It is no coincidence that the large international dredging companies have their roots in low-laying countries like The Netherlands and Belgium. Van Oord is from The Netherlands. The traditional coexistence of low-lying areas, rivers and seas has formed a natural breeding ground for the development of dredging and reclamation techniques. This has led to a prominent presence in the international maritime sector of Dutch and Belgium dredging contractors for over a hundred years now.
In this recent media interaction with its managing director in Nigeria, Mr. R.A.M Schinagl, a lot of interesting issues came up for the information of avid watchers of the dredging sector in this part of the world. It’s a pungent interview replete with history and the display of modern dredging technology. Excerpts:
DDH =Dredge, Drill & Haul.
VO = Van Oord Nigeria Limited
DDH: We understand that Van Oord is a world-wide dredging and marine contractor with a strong presence in Nigeria. Could you tell us a bit more about your company?
VO: Certainly, but let me first of all thank you for the opportunity given to me to talk to you about our company Van Oord. I would like to touch upon its history, capabilities in the field of dredging and marine works, and last but not least to highlight several eye-catching projects successfully executed and still under construction. Van Oord is a world-leading dredging and marine contractor with one of the largest state-of-the-art dredging fleet in the world and employs about 2,640 professionals world-wide. We own some 25 trailing suction hopper dredgers, more than 20 cutter suction dredgers and many other dredging equipment. Van Oord has over a century of experience in dredging, reclaiming and protecting land, construction of ports, coastal and shore protection, maintenance of harbours and waterways, and services to the oil and gas industry. We undertake projects around the world of any specification and size.
This experience is marked by some awe-inspiring projects such as the airport in Hong Kong which was built entirely on a man-made island in the sea. Another example is the recently opened Hong Kong Disneyland which was also constructed on a site reclaimed from the sea by Van Oord. We successfully completed the Palm Island project in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at the end of 2003, which required about 100,000,000 cubic metres of sand in the reclamation. The size of this project is such that it was even noticed and photographed from space by one of the astronauts travelling on the space shuttle. Another even larger project in Dubai that is currently being executed by Van Oord is The World. Here, an impressive quantity of 325,000,000 cubic metres of sand is required for the reclamation as well as 32,000,000 tons of rock for the construction of the breakwaters.
DDH: What about your presence and operations in Nigeria all these years, how has it been?
VO: Of course! From a geographical point of view The Netherlands and Nigeria have a lot in common. The problems and opportunities in Nigeria arising from the natural environment of a low-lying delta, the large and expanding ports and the ever-increasing demand for land bear many similarities with the traditional historical circumstances the Dutch dredging companies originate from. It shall therefore be no surprise that the dredging companies have found their way into Nigeria.
It is well-known that Nigeria has large oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta and the offshore region. When the first oil companies started their operations in the Niger Delta in the early 60s, they also opened the doors and created opportunities for the dredging companies. Our company came to Nigeria in 1963. The first project we carried out was the dredging of Bonny Bar, creating the access channel to Bonny and many projects throughout Nigeria followed. At that time we operated under our former name, Ham Dredging Nigeria Ltd. However, after the merger of our parent company ended in 2003 we changed our name to Van Oord Nigeria Ltd. This new name is currently the one and only true company name although some people in the maritime sector do still remember us under our former name. Our head office is located at Victoria Island Lagos from where our management team services the market and our clients. In 2002 we decided to construct an entirely new operational base in Amadi Ama in Port Harcourt. This base was opened in 2003 and we left our former yard which was situated at Abuloma. We are proud to have one of the most modern and well- equipped facilities in the dredging industry in Nigeria.
Our employees, both Nigerians and Dutch expatriates, at our Lagos office and Port Harcourt yard are professionals and highly qualified to perform any dredging project to the satisfaction of our clients. To execute the numerous dredging projects for our clients, we permanently operate in Nigeria two cutter suction dredgers and one grab dredger with numerous other auxiliary pieces of equipment such as house boats, tugs, multicat, barges and dry-earthmoving equipment. Currently our dredgers are all involved in different Call-Off works for the major oil companies NAOC and SPDC. If a particular project requires other or larger dredging equipment we will make such equipment available from our world-wide operating dredging fleet. Let me give you examples of recently executed projects. Our trailing suction hopper dredge Geopotes 15 successfully completed the dredging works at Atlas Cove in Lagos about three years ago and was also involved in the Bar Beach replenishment project.
Furthermore, our hopper dredgers, the HAM 310 and HAM 316 were deployed for the supply of sand for the large development of EGTL (Escravos-Gas-To-Liquid) at Escravos, whereas many other hopper dredgers from our fleet reclaimed large stockpiles at Bonny Island for various clients during the past decades. For the Nigerian Ports Authority we maintained the access channels to Bonny and Calabar for more than 30 years with our dredger, the Noordzee V. In fact, the port of Calabar was dredged by us from 1976 to 1979 and we have recently been awarded the upstream section of the present dredging campaign on Calabar River again by the Nigerian Ports Authority. And in Calabar also, which is almost like home to us, we are starting up the dredging of the Lake at the Tinapa Business Resort for our client Tinapa Business Resort Ltd. Considering our large and diverse fleet, we will always be able to be of service to our clients. I am proud to say that many of our trailing suction hopper dredgers have paid a visit to Nigeria over the past decades to execute dredging works and we will do our utmost to see to it that other vessels of our world-wide fleet also have the opportunity to dredge in the Nigerian waters.
DDH: Although dredging is your core business, do you foresee any other market segment which you want to explore in Nigeria?
VO: With the new company Van Oord we wish to further strengthen our position within the Nigerian market and to extend our business in the field of soil improvement, various marine related services for the oil and gas industry and large-scale shore protection and breakwater construction works.
Talking about soil improvement, the low-lying delta in The Netherlands and the Niger Delta have also in common that the sub-grade consists of very soft soil such as peat, silt or clay. When reclaiming land for infrastructural or industrial projects on top of these compressible layers of soil, considerable settlement is to be expected over a long period of time. In the Niger Delta, these compressible layers are removed or a surcharge is placed on top of the reclamation to speed up settlement. In the Netherlands, however, we speed up this settlement by installing vertical drains, which are less expensive and far more efficient.
Although this method is fairly common in our country and other parts of the world, it is as yet not widely applied in Nigeria. Given our experience with this method and as Van Oord Nigeria operates equipment for the installation of these vertical drains, we are promoting and introducing this type of soil improvement technique in Nigeria. And not without success as Van Oord recently installed vertical drains at Bonny Island for JGC Corporation and Exxon Mobil.
I am confident that this market can be further explored in Nigeria. We have been active in the field of cable installation and offshore works in Nigeria since 1996/1997 when we installed a 150-kilometre long sub-marine cable along the coast between Warri, Escravos, Brass and Bonny, and a three-kilometre sub-marine cable through the marshes near Escravos. With our current technical capabilities and know-how and strong presence in the world-wide oil and gas industry, efforts are being made to continue working in this market segment in Nigeria and to demonstrate the excellent services our Offshore Department can provide to clients. A first step in the right direction was recently taken when tendering for a project in the Niger Delta comprising the installation of a sub-marine cable for one of the major oil companies.
I truly hope that I have given you and your readers a clear and detailed picture of the activities of Van Oord in Nigeria. With so many projects in the pipeline I am confident that we will be able to continue our presence and position in Nigeria for the next decades. It is my wish to further strengthen our relationship with Nigerian business as well as private and oil industry sectors, and to provide any of our services whenever they are needed.