8 lessons learnt from dredging projects


There’s no shortage of hold-ups when it comes to dredging projects, with such a big industry, Australia is full of them. Ahead of Dredging and Reclamation 2014, I caught up with a few project leaders to see where mistakes have been made. Some key areas stood out that I wanted to share with you:

Mapping is key

Financial considerations are hard to overestimate in any project. Developers can often be unwilling to spend money on mapping and monitoring, instead opting for the simplest possible technique. Unfortunately, as you go down the line with this approach, there’s still some surprise when the approvals get rejected. Without the right equipment, the operation tends to go over thresholds or other similar measurements. In the field, the simplest technique doesn’t give you the answer all the time. You’ll only end up having to spend your money on fines and delays instead. Be one step ahead of the regulators and the public.

Transferring risk can end up costing big bucks

Dredging project owners are always looking to reduce their risk, trying to create contracts that transfer risk to the dredging contractor and it doesn’t work. A contractor can decide at some point that they haven’t made enough money, pick an area of AS 2124 and attack it and make a claim. If multiple contractors operate within a wharf or similar structure at the same time, this can cause access issues and lead to further claims.

There’s an illusion in the current way contracts are done that risk can be transferred from the project owner. Whilst this may save short term costs, it can lead to substantial cost and time delays down the line.

Owners still have a lack of experience in terms of practical dredging knowledge. Most teams have a procurement unit working in isolation and independently of everyone else, which leads to a single vision. Risk becomes points on a paper inside a contract that becomes transferred rather than dealt with from a practical view.

Communication is top priority

It seems obvious, but it’s still an area that leads to many issues throughout the dredging process. This is crucial both for contract relationships and to avoid delays and disputes from stakeholders.

Collaboration, partnership, and being able to see another person’s perspective is key. Building a rapport builds confidence and trust that the contract and project is being handled responsibly – work together early and often, both at the project level and more broadly.

Good planning up front and a robust assessment of baseline environmental conditions needs to be locked in. Have a very well defined project description early on and don’t change it. All of those things will help approvals, stakeholder communication and consultation.

The ‘unforeseen’ can be avoided

If you’re acting for the Principal, start thinking about the likelihood of unexpected conditions at the early feasibility stage of a project right up to when you select a tenderer. After selecting a tenderer and the Contractor is working on site, you lose much of the power to influence. Take steps to identify possible latent conditions at any early stage, before you’re confronted with them during project execution.

Latent conditions need to be managed

If a Principal is faced with a more complex project with varying soil and rock types, then it is well advised to carry out a more thorough investigation to lower the risk of not detecting a latent condition. Obviously there is a cut off; a Principal can’t investigate every cubic meter for the planned Project.

Any site investigation can only be a representation of anticipated subsurface conditions. Principals should always aim to reduce the risk to an acceptable degree. Consider Early Contractor Involvement with the scope of the planned site investigation.

Geotechnical modelling has huge potential

 

Both the Principal and the Contractor should formulate a robust 3D geotechnical model of the likely subsurface conditions. The model can determine what materials you are likely to encounter in different types and categories.

The Principal’s consultant and the Contractor’s production estimator can then calculate the derived productions fairly accurately. If a latent condition is encountered, a geotechnical model can provide the parties with a benchmark to calculate where the differences are. Be wary of interpretation – different biases can lead to issues.

Take proactive measures

A proactive way of dealing with disputes as they arise is needed. A dispute board can be selected for their knowledge and expertise before any dispute has arisen. By undertaking an on-going relationship and regular site visits, the dispute board will acquire a good working knowledge of the project. When a dispute arises, the dispute board will have a much better understanding than a court or arbitral tribunal, which will only be appointed after a dispute has arisen.

Keep learning and evolving

The fundamental of dredging is that you dig the stuff up out of the ground and put it somewhere – that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way that you do it, and that’s driven from environmental approvals.

The management of reclamation areas has improved enormously, and understanding how to minimise the amount of turbidity or sediments that get back into the environment. That’s going to become much more important as work is done in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Innovation will be dealing with the conditions and coming up with the best outcome using all of your knowledge and resources available to come up with a solution.

The Dredging and Reclamation conference has been developed as a value creation forum where knowledge, new ideas, best practice and real world learning experiences can be shared amongst other dredging professionals. Providing key case studies from leading practitioners, the conference will share insight into Australia’s most exciting dredging projects in the planning, design or development stages.

Find out more by visiting www.dredgingandreclamation.com.au or call 02 9229 1090.

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