March 2011, Jan De Nul dispatched "Leiv Eiriksson" to Duqm -ad interim-, until the Vietnam project gathered speed.
This project was the first time ever "Leiv Eiriksson went operational 24/7.
A ship like "Leiv Eiriksson" can move astonishing volumes of soil in one day (think 250.000 m3 / day). Design engineers may have to rethink how they setup dredging projects, to take maximum profit from this feature.
On the other hand; "Leiv Eiriksson" carries a huge risk; any mishap can take down the capital ship, for days or weeks.
Life onboard becomes a continuous excercise in risk assesment.
With these "mega"-ships, draughts are a major worry. With a 15m+ max. draught, we were tide-bound most of the time, but could maximise loads through careful calculation of underkeel clearances.
This is the big challenge on these ships: to sharply calculate max. draught, and to exactly load the hopper, all within 10 cm margins.
Every idiot can load a hopperdredger to the gunwales. But getting it safely into port with minimal underkeel clearance, requires a different mindset.
Another concern, with "Leiv Eiriksson" sailing in a narrow channel; is coordination with other vessels on site. A ship like "Leiv" cannot safely stop in a shallow channel. But coordination on the Duqm site went superb; we never had a hitch with the smaller ships on site.
Considering the complexity of an unproven ship, "Leiv Eiriksson" held itself wonderfully together. Starting up a new ship is usually a stop-and-go process. But this was just.... dredging -weeks on end- with zero downtime (well....almost).
There are regular pirate attacks in this area, quite close to the Omani territorial waters. The Duqm site works under the umbrella of Omani naval forces.
Somali pirates rule the entire Arabian Sea now, from the Street of Hormuz to Madagascar and the Indian coast.
Just days before departing from Duqm, the large 26-knots containership "Hianjin Tianjin" was taken by pirates. Another ship was hijacked just 30 miles from the site.
"Leiv Eiriksson" sailed late April 2011 towards a new site in Vietnam, another port development, with a 12-hour pitstop in Singapore.
During our sea passage, we were fully prepared for pirates, but saw none.
Duqm, in Oman, is a new port development, aiming at cargo trans-shipment, oil-export and repair facilities for ships up to 600.000 dwt.
Thus, Duqm will become serious a competitor for ports in the Persian Gulf.
JDN started work early 2008, virtually "in the middle of nowhere"; no hotels, hardly any inhabitants, only a beach, with desert behind.The total volume to dredge was 68 miljoen m³.
The first month dredging was true pioneering; crew transfers took place with a fishing boat which literally had to "run" itself on the beach. Some people got off the boat with wet feet, others were not so lucky...
Bunkering the vessels was another problem. Bunker barges had to come down 300 miles from Muscat to refuel the vessels on site. During the annual monsoon, however, this is impossible. The solution was to deliver fuel by road, from Muscat; 600 km over land; a major logistic feat."Leiv Eiriksson" too, was refuelled by roadtankers. The site had to stretch their facilities to the breaking point, to keep the behemoth going. But it all worked out, no unit ever ran short of fuel.
Spring 2011, after three years of dredging, Duqm has developed into a village with five thousand inhabitants. Construction of an airport and an hotel have started.
Things will change fast from here on, in Duqm.
The port went operational in in January 2011, and the drydock complex in April 2011; Jan De Nul was the first customer.
Duqm is a major project for JDN; the project acts as a sponge, soaking up excess capacity in a dredging company. A total of 3 cutters, 7 hoppers and 10 splitbarges, all JDN-vessels, saw action in Duqm.
Marc Van de Velde