CEDA DMC Works On A Guidance Paper For Soil Investigation

CEDA Dredging Management Commission WG on Soil Investigation (Credit: CEDA)
CEDA Dredging Management Commission WG on Soil Investigation (Credit: CEDA)

Did you ever start a project and it turned out that the conditions were different than expected? Welcome to the dredging industry. One of the most underestimated preparations for a dredging project is the soil investigation. As this investigation is of the utmost importance for the dredging community, the DMC is preparing a guidance paper on this topic1, which we discussed last meeting (February 7, 2020, IMDC, Antwerp).

Working for a dredging equipment manufacturer, I am not much involved in the actual soil investigation. However, often our clients base their purchase of a specific type of equipment on the soil investigation and as such we are often presented with the reports on soil investigation. Based on these reports, we calculate the possible production for various types and advise the client for a dredge that will meet their requirements on the maximum production. most of the time we provide a good advise and the client is happy.

Off course there have been occasions where the performance was not as expected. Often because the report on the soil investigation was inadequate. Either the report did not contain all the details, or the investigation itself was lousy. Either way, rubbish in, is rubbish out. Just as an example, let me tell you what can go wrong, when the information is not representing the real circumstances.

One of our products are the so called ‘DOP Dredges’2. They are based around the versatile DOP pump. Basically, it a DOP suspended on an A-frame on a pontoon with a powerpack. The DOP can be lowered into the sediment and create a typical suction dredge pit. The production is more based on the rate that water can enter the bank face and the velocity that the banks recede. Our client provided us a Particle Distribution Diagram of the available sediment3. It was a nice narrow graded sand, but there was a considerable fines tail on the lower end. This was being dealt by the washing and screening installation. According to the client was this the sand characteristic from the whole pit. And what could be better? If you excavate all the material, you really know what is there, right?

Difference between expected soil conditions (left) and real situation (right)
Difference between expected soil conditions (left) and real situation (right)

Well no. As it happened, there were cohesive silt layers between the narrow graded sand layers. When dredging, they sucked at the bottom of the pit. Any silt layers gradually broke of and disintegrated by the eroding density flow. As the pit was created over a long period, the falling chunks of silt just slid down the slope, without causing any harm.

Enter: the new DOP dredge. It started in a new corner of the pit and initially had some trouble penetrating the silt layer. Eventually it managed to get through and started excavating a cavity below the silt layer. These broke of, burying the DOP. Without any possibility to recover the DOP, it turned into a very expensive anchor.

Risk of getting your DOP trapped in a cavity under the cohesive silt layers and the solution
Risk of getting your DOP trapped in a cavity under the cohesive silt layers and the solution

If the presence of these cohesive silt layers would have been known, we would have adapted the suction pipe for a deeper penetration. That prevents the DOP becoming covered and facilitates easier extraction. This story proves two things: 1. A proper soil investigation can prevent costly accidents and budget runovers. 2. A DOP can be modified to most requirements, when the circumstances are known.

Meanwhile, the DMC is preparing its guidance document to assist you in preventing problems like this. Follow CEDA for updates4.

Standard suction tube (left) and long suction tube (right)
Standard suction tube (left) and long suction tube (right)


  1. Dredging Management Commission, CEDA
  2. DOP Dredger, Damen
  3. A Sample of Soil Samples, Discover Dredging
  4. News, CEDA

See also

HYDRO 2018 Gdansk: Selecting A Dredge For Your Reservoir Maintenance

Barrage du Ksob, M’Sila, Algeria with a DOP dredge 350

This week, I am here in Gdansk for a presentation on the HYDRO 2018 Conference1 and assist at the Damen booth at the corresponding exhibition. The paper and the presentation are already prepared and I am very excited to do the presentation, but I can’t wait till tomorrow and I like to share the story now, already. So, you, as my favourite audience, will have my personal spoiler after so many teasers have been floating around2,3,4.

General modes of siltation at the usual location in a reservoir

The thing is, dam maintenance and reservoir restoration is something already long on my attention list. Back already in 2008, I wrote a paper on this subject for the CEDA Dredging Days5. Over and over we’ve conveyed the message on various platforms, that dredging might be a viable solution for sedimentation problems in reservoirs. Usually, the solution by dam owners and operators is to flush, sluice or store the sediment. This looks horrible from a dredging perspective, but it is also to the environment. You either smother or starve the downstream river with sediment. As a right minded dredge enthusiast, you see many possibilities to dredge such a project. Immediately we can identify what dredge to use on which location for which purpose.

Selection of applicable dredges for reservoir dredging

If you are very close to the dam and the length of the discharge line allows it, you might even not need a dredge pump. (No wear parts!) It is a so called siphon dredge. But as soon as there is some further transport involved, either distance or uphill, you need a dredge like a cutter suction dredge or a DOP dredge. For even further discharge, you might employ a booster for increased discharge pressure. If the distance becomes very far, you might have to resort to grabs and barges.

Water injection dredging principle and example (this example would be too big for a common reservoir)

As an intermediate solution you might even consider using a water injection dredge. Usually the reservoir is in the mountains and a bottom gradient will be present, enabling the required gravity flow. The actual dredge should have created a silt trap where it can collect the inflowing material from the water injection dredge. Than it can handle the material as usual.

Alternative uses for the dredged sediment a) silt farming as fertile additive b) gravel extraction for concrete

Off course, the dredged sediment belongs to the river and the best thing would be to gradually release the sediment after the dam. But there might be conditions, where it is beneficial to extract the valuable fraction of the sediment and use it for agriculture or as aggregate in the construction industry.

Dredge selection diagram for reservoirs

We noticed, that it is often difficult to convey to dam owners and operators which dredge to select for which job. Sediment is seen as a liability and not as an asset and they rather neglect issues associated with the sediment. So, I made an attempt to have a plain and simple selection diagram. That is the core of my manuscript. But my objective is, that we will see many beautiful dredges contributing to a sustainable and viable operation of hydropower dams and reservoirs.

New DOP dredge family


  1. HYDRO 2018: Progress through partnerships, Hydropower and Dams
  2. LinkedIn Teaser, Saskia den Herder
  3. Damen: Spotlight on Hydro Power Dam Maintenance
  4. LinkedIn Teaser, Olivier Marcus
  5. Multi Functional Small Dredging Solution For Maintenance Of Deep Irrigation Reservoirs And Hydro Power Dams, CEDA

See also

Don’t rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over

DOP Dredge ‘Roanoke’, Long Island, USA

We were quietly enjoying our dinner on a relaxed evening in our vacation. Suddenly, we were rudely disturbed by rumble and clatter from across the valley. For our eyes developed a rock slide. Just as sudden as it started it was already over. Perplexed, we were too slow to capture the event and put it on social media. Afterwards, I took some pictures of the rubble. As you can see, it was not even a proper rock slide, more the collapse of a retaining wall.

Retaining wall collapse, Sóller, Mallorca, Spain, June 21, 2018

Come to think about it, it was not the first collapse I witnessed. Back in 2006, I was visiting our DOP dredge at Roanoke on Long Island, NY in the USA. I had to do some measurements and general inspection. I was below decks connecting the data recorder to the drive system and had to check something with the dredge master. Just when I climbed on deck, he yelled at me to hold on. Immediately a torrent of water and sand was flung horizontally over the dredge. Some stones cracked a window in the control cabin. Within seconds a tsunami lifted the dredge for about a meter and we kept rocking until the reflecting waves in the pit eventually subsided.

DOP Dredge Roanoke with pit bank in the foreground, before it collapsed. Older bank collapses in the background.

That was one big bank collapse to me. A bank collapse is a known, although undesirable phenomenon in dredging1. It is a result of dredging methods, relying on the development of an active bank to produce a heavy slurry, that is sucked up. However, the sediment does not consist of a uniform block of sand. Usually, the sediment is deposited in different layers, each with their own geo technical properties. These result in varying propagation velocities of the active banks. When a ‘faster’ sand is under a ‘slower’ sand, the upper layer is not supported anymore and collapses. As the bank slumps down, it displaces an enormous volume of water and this often causes a tidal wave of its own. At Roanoke, the effects were aggravated by the fact, that the upper bank ran all the way to above water level.

Progression of an active bank and bank collapse

As this bank collapse can be expected when dredging with active banks and different sand layers, dredging companies are very keen on predicting these nasty consequences. Not only for the safe working condition of the crew, but also to prevent material damage and eventually for a stable and reliable delivered profile. Exactly this is what is being investigated by dr. Askarinejad in the Laboratory of Geo-Engineering at the Technical University Delft2. He has a beautiful rig, where exactly those conditions can be simulated and measured. With a neat trick he tips the whole test facility to form an instable bank. This makes the bank collapse on demand3.

Static liquefaction tank TU Delft (Credit: dr. A. Askarinejad)

Basically, this is exactly what we can demonstrate with the ‘breaching exhibit ‘ in our dredging experience4. Of course you are welcome to come over. For those who are not in the circumstance to visit us, you can also visit the National Dredging Museum as they now have a breaching exhibit of their own5.

Handover of our old breaching exhibit to the National Dredging Museum


  1. Breaching Process OE 4626, van Rhee, TU Delft
  2. Amin Askarinejad, TU Delft
  3. Statische liquefactietank , Delft Integraal
  4. Loose sand, how hard can it be?
  5. Baggermuseum krijgt model van Damen Dredging, Binnenvaartkrant

See also