Dredging towards the centenary of the Panama Canal

Thursday, September 09 2010 @ 06:57 PM UTC

Contributed by: Don Winner

A new custom-built cutter suction dredger destined for the Panama Canal has been launched by IHC Merwede on Monday 6 September. The 12,000kW vessel has been designed and built by IHC Beaver Dredgers at its Sliedrecht shipyard in The Netherlands for the Panama Canal Authority* (ACP – the Panama Government’s autonomous agency). QUIBIÁN I** was named and launched before invited guests at Sliedrecht, and will now be completed to IHC Merwede’s exacting quality standards. The vessel will be delivered to ACP in April 2011, within the schedule agreed when the contract was signed in March 2008.

The cutter suction dredger will work on the Panama Canal’s ongoing expansion programme in the run-up to its centenary in 2014. After this notable historic landmark, it will continue to be used for ongoing maintenance work and future modernization projects. The new addition to ACP’s fleet will have the capacity to dredge along the entire 80-kilometre shipping route that joins the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. (more)

The QUIBIÁN I has the capacity to achieve high outputs at a relatively low cost. It can work to a depth of 25 metres and under the challenging conditions it will encounter on the Canal. The vessel has been equipped with the latest dredging technology – including rock-cutting capabilities – and other features, including:

• an electrically driven cutter and winches for dredging hard soils

• Cutter Special® pumps, which combine a large spherical passage with high efficiency and suction performance

• three dredge pumps (one submerged and single-walled, and two onboard and doublewalled) with identical wear parts

• engine rooms and onboard pumps on the main deck level for easy access

• wear-resistant material for onboard pipelines

• heavily insulated daytime accommodation, engine watch room and dredge control room, placed on vibration dampers to improved the crew’s comfort levels

• special equipment to ensure minimal impact on the environment

• special provisions to ensure safe operation in the Canal with regard to the heavy traffic.

The total estimated cost of the Panama Canal expansion project is US$5.25 billion and it is designed to allow for an anticipated 65 per cent growth in traffic tonnage by 2025. A number of major improvements include: the widening and straightening of the Gaillard Cut (the narrowest stretch); the deepening of the navigational channel in Gatun Lake, and the Atlantic and Pacific entrances to the Canal; and the addition of new locks to handle the size of the post-Panamax (the size limit for ships in the Canal) vessels.

Annual traffic has risen from around 1,000 ships in the Canal's early days to 14,342 vessels in 2009. Increasing volumes of imports from Asia – which previously landed on the American west coast – are now passing through the canal to the east coast.

This has been coupled with a steady rise in average ship size and in the number of Panamax vessels passing through. The total tonnage carried has risen by more than 35 per cent overall in the past decade. This represents considerable growth in capacity and the Canal is positioned to be an important feature of world shipping for the foreseeable future.

However, variations in shipping patterns – particularly the increasing numbers of post-Panamax ships – will necessitate changes if it is to retain a significant market share. Almost half of transiting vessels are already using the full width of the locks and it is anticipated that 37 per cent of the world's container ships will be too large for the present Canal by 2011.

“IHC Merwede is creating a state-of-the-art dredger, which is the best solution for ACP’s specific requirements in the Panama Canal – not only for the present, but also for the future,” says IHC Holland’s Area Manager Ruud Ouwerkerk.

“ACP has appreciated the partnership with IHC Merwede in developing a specialist dredger for such a unique environment. This co-operation will not curtail after the delivery of the QUIBIÁN I, but will be extended with starting up the vessel, training the crew and other life-cycle support activities.”

This view is echoed by IHC Beaver Dredgers Director Bert Kips: “On behalf of the whole team at IHC Merwede, I would like to thank ACP for entrusting us with the design and build of the QUIBIÁN I. We are very proud to supply a dredging vessel to deepen and maintain the famous Panama Canal.”

Notes

* The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is the entity of the Government of Panama established under Title XIV of the National Constitution. It has exclusive charge of the operation, administration, management, preservation, maintenance and modernisation of the Canal. In addition, it is responsible for the activities and related services, pursuant to legal and constitutional regulations in force, so that the Canal may operate in a safe, continuous, efficient and profitable manner.

** The QUIBIÁN I has been named after a great indigenous leader in Panama’s history who cunningly and resolutely defended the country from 15th Century invaders. Significantly, he understood the power of bringing people together from many different regions and his name therefore symbolises resilience and unity.

Company profile IHC Merwede - IHC Merwede is focussed on the continuous development of design and construction activities for the specialist maritime sector. It is the global market leader for efficient dredging and mining vessels and equipment – with vast experience accumulated over decades – and a reliable supplier of custom-built ships and supplies for offshore construction.

IHC Merwede has in-house expertise for engineering and manufacturing innovative vessels and advanced equipment, as well as providing life-cycle support. Its integrated systematic approach has helped to develop optimum product performance and long-term business partnerships. The company’s broad customer base includes dredging operators, oil and gas corporations, offshore contractors and government authorities.

IHC Merwede has over 3,000 employees based at various locations in The Netherlands, China, Croatia, France, India, the Middle East, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Technological innovation will remain the company’s underlying strength through its continuous investment in research and development. Moreover, it helps to safeguard a sustainable environment.

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