Dredging Management Disasters in a Fictional World

Map of the dredging project at the city of Loof in the Country of Distan (Credit: CEDA 2017)

Albert Einstein made his greatest breakthroughs in the ‘Theory of Relativity’ in thought experiments. It provided him the opportunity to contemplate the extreme extends of a simple question: ‘What do I see, when I sit on a beam of light?’ How much more new insight does it generate, when a group of 200 experts in the dredging industry comes together to meditate on a thought experiment of a fictional dredging project in an imaginary country? Sure, the cases presented were very familiar, but that enabled the audience to engage in the action immediately.

Discussions at the interactive session at the CEDA Dredging Days (Credit: CEDA 2017)

In this imaginary world, there was a client, a consultant and a contractor. The client wanted a new quay wall which had to be filled with material from the river and entrance. The consultant drew up a plan and the contractor had to execute it. All three started out with good intentions, but during the project, they fell apart and got entangled in an inextricable knot of legal battles. The back fill material was not right, the dredging equipment was not adequate, the situation in the harbour was different and as problems stacked up to unsurmountable heights, several bad management decisions were taken, bringing the project further in dire straits. Apparently, the parties did not consult the CEDA’s Checklist for Successful Dredging Management!
It was up to the audience to recognise the management pitfalls and discuss the associated problems and solutions. Mike van der Vijver was there to moderate the discussions between the participants and the expert panel. The available expert panel from the CEDA Dredging Management Commission1 was able to provide background information or an alternative viewpoint on the case.

Expert panel of the interactive session at the CEDA Dredging Days: Johny Van Acker, André van Hassent, Kathleen de Wit, Charles Wilsoncroft, moderator: Mike van der Vijver. (Credit: CEDA 2017)

Considering the lively discussion, the concept really drew the audience into the thought experiment and the positive reviews proved they remembered the event long after, hopefully bringing their experience into future dredging projects. The positive effect of the Interactive Session, was that this is one of the few occasions where there is a representative selection of the dredging industry. This enabled some parties, that normally never meet each other in a project, to understand what effects of decisions in the beginning will have further down the timeline. Or the other way around: understand how some stupid contractual clauses were written in the contract, although in hindsight those were bad agreements. My personal opinion is, that the parties shouldn’t have agreed to the contract in the first place.
The Interactive Session was initiated by the CEDA Dredging Management Commission to introduce themselves and the concept of the ‘Checklist for Successful Dredging Management’2. This checklist was introduced the previous day and currently available in a paper version. However, the list will never be complete and is intended to grow and adapt as lessons are learned. So, even on this occasion there were some new issues that might be incorporated. In order to capture the discussion, there was an artist present, who made a graphic recording of the session. Most of the arguments in the audience revolved around the practical and legal side of the case, but I think, somewhere some people in the fictional case should have had the wisdom and courage to say: ‘NO!’

Graphic recording of the interactive session at the CEDA Dredging Days (Credit: CEDA 2017)



CEDA’s Checklist for Successful Dredging Management
Note: The Checklist will be available to CEDA members from this page.
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See also

Mike van der Vijver