Does it make sense to continue using the oceans as a landfill for the mud and dredge/sludge from harbors, ports and waterways? Does it not make sense instead to use a more economical method that is also environmentally friendly? One that allows a sustainable solution for dredging problems? Looking back at the decades-long practice of responsible politicians and various municipal administrations, the willingness for innovation and thinking differently appears to be sorely lacking.
What is this about? In the outer harbor of Emden for example, a method for maintenance dredging has been in use for over 25 years that is 80% more cost-effective than the conventional dredging/disposal of waterways. It has been proven – as worldwide studies on other dredging sites have shown – that the Emden method can be used everywhere. This method makes the dumping of waste into the oceans superfluous. The method can be easily adjusted to each port’s specific needs in an uncomplicated way. This process is known as sediment conditioning or in-situ conditioning. The method takes advantage of the physical property of silt. For example, the mud can be liquefied with a dredge pump without the addition of water, resulting in fluid mud, allowing the unhindered passage of ships. At the same time, new mud deposits are prevented in the dredging area, making the removal of mud waste in shallow waters/shoals a thing of the past and therefore unnecessary. The method has been tested for years, the willingness for a comprehensive overhaul of the channels and docks to retain navigability seems to be lacking.
In the outer harbor of Emden about 4 million cubic meters of sediment per year had to be dredged; today not a single cubic meter has to be removed. The result is a cost reduction from approximately € 12 million to € 2 million per year.
Why only in the port of Emden?
It begs the question: Why is sediment conditioning not used in all other German ports and waterways affected by siltation? The question remains unanswered, since a slew of proposals with the applicable technology and knowledge transfer have been submitted to port and waterway authorities and the relevant political entities.
Example nr. 1: Not applicable for the Ems – physical nonsense
Innovision submitted an offer to the Federal Ministry of Transport, together with a partner who developed the method, to make the Ems navigable through sediment conditioning for about half the price. The ministry declined with the reason “It can be assumed that conditioned dredged material will regularly drift through a flowing river.” The emphasis here is on the word “assumed.” Available data unequivocally refutes this assumption: Pertinent studies in the Ems show, that mighty, navigable fluid mud of two meters thickness, the flow rate measured zero, even when the fluid mud was overflowed with water at a flow rate of more than one meter per second. Drifting at a flow rate of 0 m / s is physically impossible and contradicts all findings in the places where silt conditioning tests have been carried out. Those responsible have not yet offered a response to these assessments.
Example nr. 2: Port of Hamburg – targeted deception
For years, experts and political entities have asserted that, sediment conditioning had been tested in the port of Hamburg and failed. Sediment conditioning, in fact, was never tested in the port of Hamburg. That means this is intentional misinformation.
And the Environmental Organizations?
Plastic bags polluting our oceans is rightly a big issue, the dumping of waste and dredged material as well. Nevertheless, there seems to be no serious interest in innovative dredging concepts to tackle the problem. Innovision has repeatedly extended invitations toward all the large environmental organizations to explain the process. To date, only Greenpeace has accepted the offer. Innovision would, again, like to encourage the organizations to take an impartial view of the process.
The sediment conditioning is an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and well-proven method for navigability of ports and waterways. However, for the past two decades, a small alliance of political and economic entities seems determined to prevent its widespread use in Germany. The cost-intensive method of dredging and disposal of dredged material has continued for decades at the expense of the taxpayer. A possible reason for this is that dredging and disposal of dredged material is an especially lucrative source of income for the big companies and innovative methods do not fit into their agenda or vested interests. Continuing to act carelessly will have dire consequences for the future as nature replenishes the silt day after day.